Summary of Hope Edelman’s “Strong Men”:
There is a group of loud dirty men all in a room together at an AA meeting who talk about what led them to hit “rock bottom”. The speaker, Hope, recalls how in New York, there is a man who is on his third scotch by this time. He has a son who is focusing on school so that he can get away from his father like his sisters did. She then states that she is the youngest and only woman in the room and is treated as if she is fragile by those in said room with her. She now comes to these meetings because the meetings she attended for sons and daughters of alcoholics was filled with old people complaining about how their lives became miserable due to their horrible upbringings. She then introduces herself to the group, by her full name, before informing us that her father never checks up on her but the men in the meetings are always lending a helping hand for her. She then declares that she isn’t an alcoholic, only to be met with denial from those around her. The men continue to check on her to make sure she doesn’t drink and the speaker lets them.
Acute Tension- she goes to AA meetings although she’s not an alcoholic.
Chronic Tension-her father is an alcoholic who hasn’t hit rock bottom and the speaker just wants a sense of hope that he will get better.
The author at first seems unreliable because she is at AA meetings and mentions that she occasionally parties and drinks too much, but claims to not be an alcoholic. However, after reading further into the piece, (or just rereading it because you skimmed over a large portion of important stuff) you realize that she is indeed a reliable source. Such as, when the other men introduce themselves, they use the first letter of their names to do so, but when she introduces herself to the group, she addresses the group with her full name, and not just the H. Also, she states that “the other group, the ones for sons and daughters of alcoholics, turned into a place where forty- and fifty-year-olds sit cross-legged on a tile floor reliving their childhood traumas in endless repetitive loops. I needed something more hopeful to cling to.” That was supposed to be a group where she dealt with her issues and gained a sense of hope that her father would hit rock bottom soon and be able to pull himself out, but that wasn’t happening so she went to visit men who had done that in order to gain hope, and that she herself is not an alcoholic.
The writer first describes the men in the group as dirty and dingy, and makes the reader pity them, but when she describes that they are beautiful, the reader is intrigued by why she thinks this and feels the urge to continue reading. After talking about the men for a bit, she injects the section about the man in New York and his children. The reader doesn’t have enough information to know that this is about her father. After she gives us a small insight into her life, she retreats and takes us back into the meeting, before leaving again to explain to us why she is at that meeting due to the fact that she gave reasons why the other men were there: their rock bottoms. And because she doesn’t have a rock bottom, she just says why she felt compelled to go to the meetings. She then reiterates how she thinks they are beautiful so that we don’t forget just how greatly she thinks of these men and how she admires them before easing us into how she claims to not be an alcoholic, but she doesn’t mind that they don’t believe her because they give her a sense of paternal protection that she has never received from her father because he has yet to hit rock bottom.
The author allows us to use our senses of speculation by slowly adding bits and pieces about her father. They are so few that if you didn’t pay a lot of attention you wouldn’t really catch them. Such as how she says her father doesn’t call to check on her and “her drinking problem” but the men in the AA meeting do. He doesn’t do this because if he calls attention to her “problem” then he would also have to point his out as well so he pretends like she doesn’t have her issues and that he doesn’t have his.