“Popular girls” is a short story from 2001 by Karen Shephard. She is born and raised in New York and her work has been published in several papers. The short-story sets in the early 80’s where we get some insight in the life of five rich and popular girls. They are self-centered and don’t have the slightest interest in other people. Their entire life is about maintaining their image as a group. The setting is New York, which is the riches city in the US. The city is also known as The big Apple and The city that never sleeps. This reflects in the mentality of these girls. They do speed, and not weed, because they want to get through school as fast as possible. They want to live life in the fast-lane and do extravagant things. Every paragraph of the text concerns some aspect of their life described in details. Every little thing about their life is mentioned. Their life and how they live it, is basically written as some kind of guidebook to popularity. A very important part of this popularity is the labels and the famous places of New York. This just underlines the superficiality of these girls’ lives.
Throughout the entire text, the narrator addresses the reader. The narrator seems to be a ”us” and a ”we”. Somehow it is someone within the group of girls narrating or the entire group as one single unit addressing the reader. By saying things like ”You know who we are”(p.1 l.1) and ”You can’t get enough of us” makes it very clear, that they are aware of their status. It can also be a way of reaching out to the reader and making the reader remember how school was in the 80’s. Many people could have certain girls in their mind when reading this short story. Even from the very first sentence. The attitude of the text is a bit provoking. The first sentence is also a good example of this. By continuously addressing the reader, it keeps on having the effect of them being superior to not just other people, but you. As if you were actually there at the time. It is very clear that the narrator is focused on the ”us” and ”you” and ”them”.
The popular girls against the rest of the world. You can’t be a part of their clique, but you can be a ”friend” of the clique. This can be seen physically by their moat of backpack’s (p.1 l.22).Their other friends can sit on the other side of their moat, but cannot be let in. These girls only focus on their appearance and of how other people perceive them. They don’t exactly worry about these things, but it constitutes their entire life. Where they go, where they sit, how they sit, it has to be the right way. They are not interested in other people and neither are they in each other,”You’re crying” we say, pointing.”(p.7 l.169) as if this is just a mere fact and they how no idea of how to act upon this. They only like the idea of themselves as a group of perfect friends, which is exactly what they are doing by saying ”It’s a performance of us, the group of us” (p.6 l.147) and ”Look at you, we are saying. Look at you.
We are happy together, part of something and not alone, and we celebrate that out loud.”(p.149-151) their entire life is a performance of themselves and the performance of the fact that they are not alone. Perhaps they do feel alone in a life of rich parents that bring back dolls and pearls from business trips for their collection. There is a conflation of identities between these girls as they don’t work as individuals, but just as a group. This is made clear on page 2 line 58. ”We walk in the formation of migrating geese.” Here the author uses humor/irony to emphasize the slight silliness of the group when comparing them to poultry. They are basically a herd of animals dependent of each other. Even though they define themselves as a group, Stephanie seems to be the leader, as she is described as a slightly more individual person: ”We’re Kaethe and Alina, CJ and Sydney. Stephanie.”(p.1, l.1) here she is singled out as their frontline figure.
Stephanie is the tallest and also in the center of their ”geese-formation”. She also dictates the idea of wearing these special rings, which they all obey. The girls have this special bond that consists of a strong ”friendship”, but probably because they can’t see a way out. Without the rest of the pack, they would feel hopeless. None of them dares to leave anyone behind. The ending is a picture of their ”friendship” whilst they perform as a group, they also make a performance for each other. No one knows them, not even their family and not even their own clique. They put on a performance of their popularity, even for their friends. Somehow, without words, they push each other to do things that are considered “cool”. But none of them knows when to stop.
“Whatever happens will be performed in front of the group. We ask ourselves weather we can actually do this; (…)We are uneasy. Nothing about this whole thing will be graceful. No one is leaving”(p.8 l.198-201) none of the girls wants to be the one chickening-out, no one want’s to be the one leaving the rest behind. Leaving now would be a kind of betrayal or a sign of weakness. Their obsession of being popular and someone important is a postmodern theme, also seen in: ”Not yet, Jayette” by William Boyd from 1981. Although he does not reach this purpose, he has the same goals and views of life as these popular girls. None of them will ever feel complete, with or without these materialistic things.
Subject: Short story,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 26 October 2016
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