“Bullet in the Brain” Write Up by Skye Crumpler


Tobias Wolff’s story “Bullet in the Brain” is an especially compelling one because the main character Anders is a very detailed and layered character, although his rich back story only begins to present itself when he is shot. The author makes Anders such a detailed character with copious amounts of indirect characterization, such as the well worded sarcasm he uses when speaking to the annoying women in front of him, and the callous way he treats the threat of being shot by the robbers, as if it was some sort of joke. In comparison to other characters, he is highly educated, but has a short temper and does not know when to hold his tongue.

The main reason this story is compelling to read is the turn, when Anders is shot in the head by one of the robbers. Usually, once the narrator is killed in a story the story ends, but interestingly enough once Anders is shot, the story begins to use beautiful imagery and provide more information of the late Anders making you feel connected to him by giving us memories of the life he once lived, making the story interesting and compelling to read. I would like to take a traditional idea and turn it on its head just as the author did in this story, as in the story the author does not treat Anders being shot in the head as an ending, but rather a new beginning, and a new purpose.

The story teaches us that every door in a story can be a new start, and a new way to view a topic or event, just like how after Anders was shot the story got a new point of view, and a new topic. It is especially ingenious how ironic and how fitting Anders’ end was, his own judgment and elitism brought him to a life of critiquing his own memories, and his own past until the bullet leaves his skull.

“Bullet in the Brain” is a very descriptive and untraditional story, with a large amount of usable strategies and techniques that I would very much like to utilize in my own writing. One of my favorite things that the author utilizes in the story is how the author treats the experience of being shot in the head, and how he uses a mutated form of bloody potato when he states what Anders does not remember instead of what he does. It makes the delivery of what Anders does remember all the more powerful, and compelling to read. I would love to use this form of expression in my own writing. Another compelling technique the author uses is the sense of irony in the piece. From the beginning to the end of the story, Anders’ elitism and judgment is the source of his own doom. The author also uses vivid imagery when describing the interactions between the bullet and Anders’ memories. The dialogue in the story is vulgar, but realistic and Anders’ mind paints him as such a flawed and human character that you truly care about when reading the story.

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