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“The Bench” by John Fuller Essay

The short story “The Bench”, written by John Fuller in the year of 2007, is about a young, pregnant woman who meets a woman that cannot have children by her favorite bench in the park. She is scheduled for an abortion but chooses to keep the baby and give it to the woman who can’t have children. She doesn’t tell her about the idea though, and she never sees the woman again resulting in her keeping the baby herself after all. The point of view of the story is from the main character and is therefore omniscient first-person. It seems to be happening during the spring or summer season and takes place over a nine month period, mostly in the park. It could be happening today as well as twenty years ago. The story is very logical; it could most definitely happen in the real world and in some way it makes sense that someone who is going to have an abortion instead wants to give their child away to someone who cannot have children.

The narrator and main character is dynamic because she changes throughout the story. It is very clear that she does not wish to have the baby at first. She doesn’t care about the baby’s health and she can’t see the harm in smoking a cigarette if she is going to have an abortion anyway. She has an opinion about everything and a foul mouth (which is shown through the narrator’s language), and she does not leave out a single detail whether it is about her sex life or how she gets her hair done. An example of this is when she says: “He fucked me from every direction and on every surface in my apartment,” when mentioning the father of the child on p. 9 l. 55. She has also been in prison for shoplifting and is in many ways a rebel. She has not done anything meaningful with her life and believes that she never will. The main character doesn’t think that her mother loves her but she doesn’t seem to care that much.

She seems tough on the outside; does not want to become engaged in other people’s lives, but she still has those moments where you get to see her softer inside. When she tells about the black swans that made her cry or when she thinks about her grandmother on p. 8 is an example of this. The narrator does want to help poor, hungry or homeless people and doesn’t mind sharing – unless it’s about the bench because the bench is very important to her. It is her breathing space when she needs to get away from the world’s mature and busy doings but I also think that it ends up being a crossroads for her. It is by the bench that she meets the other woman who can’t have children and it is on the bench that she decides to have the baby. It is here she decides to do something noble with her life in her eyes and give her baby away to someone who actually does want a child. Although the main character ends up keeping the child herself it still changed her life for good.

The narrator’s language is very direct and a bit indecent. It is quite colloquial in some places, for example p. 8 ll. 28-31 where the sentences are a little incoherent and ended with several periods. Also the use of curse words makes the language seem colloquial. An example of figurative language is when the narrator says: “I still have bruises in places I can’t see without contorting myself into a yogic position from which I couldn’t disentangle myself without professional help,” where hyperbole is used. It is a much exaggerated description of her bruises which gives it a more fun twist. There is a use of allusion when the narrator’s best friend Barbie says she is like Ruby Tuesday in a song by the Rolling Stones, and this is also an example of simile. Some other examples of simile are when the narrator compares the bench to an older cousin p. 8 l. 21 and her stomach to a watermelon p. 11 l. 151.

The bench (and other benches) is given personifying traits when the narrator says that benches do not care if you have ever achieved anything in life and that they make you feel as if you matter, which is personification. This also helps to make the reader understand how important the bench is to the main character. I think the message John Fuller is trying to get across is that only a little thing or what seems like an insignificant choice can change your whole life. The main character chose that day to go the park and not to leave the bench when the other woman came. Because of those decisions she later became a mother and her life was never the same.

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