Important Element in the Story Essay
Important Element in the Story
In the two short stories, “Little Things” by Carver and “The End of Something” by Hemingway, both authors make the title significant to the story’s message. The title “Little Things” is somewhat ironic in that the word ‘little’ could refer to the baby or could in fact be calling their argument petty, even though the child that they are fighting over is a major issue. This irony is significant to the story because even though the parents appear passionate about their infant, the argument clearly lies deeper. The title “The End of Something” could also refer to a number of things.
In this story many things are coming to an end. The end of the mill and the town at Horton’s Bay, the end of Nick and Marjorie’s relationship, the end of their fishing trips and the end of their day. Both stories are about the end of relationships however, in “Little Things” the breakup is angry and violent whereas in “The End of Something” the breakup is calm and brief. The story “Little Things” is about the violent breakup of two parents. It is implied that they are married but Carver does not explicitly state this.
The opening paragraph describes the weather and the time of day, which reflects the mood of the piece, the darkness of the evening mirroring the dark mood inside the house, “it was getting dark. But it was getting dark on the inside too. ” This shows that although the mood was dark, it was not completely pitch black outside implying that there may still be a slight glimmer of hope for the young couple that is soon introduced. As the fight and the emotions become more reckless and brutal the light begins to fade, showing that all hope is lost.
The characters in the story are not named. This gives their predicament a deeper sense of urgency and immediacy. This is used to great effect as when we first meet the man and women, the absence of names throws us directly into the middle of their quarrel. In this piece there is no need to build up the characters with a descriptive foreplay as it is not important to the story, making it more urgent. However in “The End of Something” we feel more sympathy for the characters as we have learned about them in more detail.
From the line “he was in the bedroom pushing clothes into a suitcase when she came through the door,” we can deduce from the subtext that these people are in some kind of long-term relationship, and the second line of the same paragraph draws attention to the fact that they are having a heated argument. It is extremely common that in short stories a lot of information is insinuated rather than being clearly stated and so the reader must draw a meaning from the subtext. The woman is the first to speak.
Carver does not use speech marks at all during the story in order to draw more immediacy to the article. The first line of speech “I’m glad you’re leaving! I’m glad you’re leaving! Do you hear? ” shows that although the woman appears to be angry at her partner and glad that he is moving out it is easily noted that she in fact feels exactly the opposite. This is illustrated by the repetition of the line “I’m glad you’re leaving” showing that she is trying to reassure herself that she doesn’t need him. This shows irony.
The woman continues to barrage the man with slurs, “son of a bitch”, obviously in an attempt to provoke his attention and convince him to stay. When she states “you can’t even look me in the face can you? ” it is blatantly obvious that the man has had some kind of affair. The woman fails in catching the man’s attention and therefore when she spies the baby’s picture on the bed she takes it, out of spite. The man follows her; turning off the bedroom light as he leaves symbolising the end of their relationship, “looked around the bedroom before turning off the light. ”
The baby is also not named showing that although it is the child that they are fighting over, the battle about more and the baby is merely a pawn in their game of spite or revenge. The man states “I want the baby. ” This immediately provokes maternal instincts from the mother who rushes to keep her child. The infant is continuously referred to as ‘the baby’ or ‘this baby’ showing that their child is solely an object that the couple are focusing their anger on. The man’s request for the baby is not because he necessarily wants the child from love but more because he sees it as a prize that he can win over the woman.
Gradually their battle becomes more physical and violent as the man tries to take that baby from the woman, “in the scuffle they knocked down a flowerpot. ” The baby senses the tension in the room and starts to cry which adds to the anxiety and desperation in the mood of the text, “the baby had begun to cry. ” Throughout the rest of the story Carver intensifies the atmosphere by using urgent and effective words such as “screaming,” “red faced,” “gripped” and “hurting”.
Nearing the end of the story the light is involved again, “the kitchen window gave no light,” this line exemplifies that there was no hope left for the couple and the baby. The lines become shorter to add to the fierce battle that the couple is suffering. The man and the woman both grab the child and pull it in different directions in a hope that one will triumph but we do not know the victor. The last line “in this manner the issue was decided,” leaves us pondering a number of possible out comes.
The man or the woman may have succeeded in snatching the infant for themselves or they may have pulled their baby in two. If so the story appears to be a parody of the biblical story ‘The Two Women and Solomon’, in which a man offers to cut a baby in half to settle a quarrel between two woman as to who the mother of the baby is. In this story we are left with an ambiguous end. It is very common in short stories that the resolution of the story is left undecided, again leaving the reader to make their own conclusion from the clues given.
The second short story “The End of Something” is also about the end of a relationship, however it is handled in a calmer and less violent manner. The first paragraph sets the scene of a calm deserted bay, once a busy lumbering town, now reduced to a citizen-free ghost town. The couple, Nick and Marjorie, are rowing through this bay in a calm fashion “they were trolling along the edge of the channel bank,” but they soon head towards “dark water” which shows that they are heading towards trouble.
They are rowing soundlessly until Marjorie breaks the silence and begins to talk about the old mill on the shore, describing it as “our old ruin”; this shows that their relationship stretches back a long way. Nick answers unenthusiastically. Marjorie tries to keep up the conversation describing it as a castle, which shows that she sees ‘their’ ruin in a fairy-tale manner. However Nick is still distant which makes Marjorie have to work hard to keep their conversation alive. Marjorie appears to love everything about their fishing trips.
She obviously loves Nick very much and is enjoying spending time with him, “She loved to fish. She loved to fish with Nick. ” Clearly Nick is quite qualified at fishing and Marjorie tries to make him feel good by putting him in charge and asking him questions to boost his ego, “‘They’re feeding,’ Marjorie said. ‘But they won’t strike,’ Nick said. ” By this Nick means that he will not strike that night. The couple carries out their actions of fishing with scarce communication and we can tell that something is clearly upsetting Nick as Marjorie is trying to provoke conversation but to no avail.
When Marjorie questions Nick “What’s the matter Nick? ” he replies “I don’t know. ” The couple set out a picnic on the beach but we can tell that Nick is merely going through the motions as he says “I don’t feel like eating” and all it takes is one line from Marjorie and he agrees. They eat silently until finally Nick breaks the tension. “There’s going to be a moon tonight,” but when Marjorie agrees Nick becomes angry as if he was waiting for anything to release the pent up emotions held inside.
Marjorie tries to divert the conversation from an argument and begins to talk about the moon. As in “Little Things”, the weather and setting play a part in describing the mood of the piece. The moon could represent chastity, coldness or even the passing of time. Silence follows and they do not touch each other until Marjorie ventures to ask Nick “What’s really the matter? ” Marjorie is desperately trying to make their evening enjoyable and romantic but Nick is making it extremely difficult.
Nick tries to avoid the question until he starts to explain that it wasn’t fun any more and that he was mixed up inside. “I feel as though everything was gone to hell inside of me,” the use of the word ‘was’ instead of ‘is’ shows that he is confused and suffering a confidence crisis. Marjorie is evidently shocked as she barely speaks except to say “isn’t love any fun? ” which is swiftly followed by an answer from Nick, “No. ” Unlike in “Little Things”, there is no major battle about to be released, instead Marjorie leaves calmly, dignity intact, in the boat.
Nick offers to help push the boat out, which shows that he still cares for her, but is refused. When Marjorie leaves Nick lies on the blanket for a long time until mysteriously a new character named Bill emerges from the woods. Bill is a curious character. Obviously he is related to Bill in some way and Hemingway makes his sexuality and Nick’s dubious when we read the line “Bill didn’t touch him either. ” Bill appears as insensitive when he barrages Nick with questions about his extremely recent breakup, provoking Nick to lash out and tell him to leave.
This story again is left at a loose end. We are left questioning the sexuality of Bill and Nick. It is implied that Nick and Bill were in a homosexual relationship together. This would explain Bill’s presence hiding in the wood and the fact that it states “Bill didn’t touch him either. ” The last line shows that Bill has replaced Marjorie because Bill walks over to check the fishing rods which was previously Marjorie’s job. However, Nick appears to be insecure about his choice to be gay, as we can see from the fact that he tells Bill to go away.
Bill has clearly pressured Nick into breaking up with Marjorie, as we can see from the list of questions he asks and his quick appearance from the wood. Both the short stories are about the breakup of relationships but under different circumstances. As always in a short story the reader is left thinking many things from one brief text. All short stories consist of and introduction, a main conflict, a resolution and a conclusion. In “Little Things” the conclusion was the questionable death of the child. In “The End of Something” the conclusion was the appearance of Bill and the question of Nick’s sexuality.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 July 2017
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