In “The 400 Pound CEO” by George Saunders, Jeffrey, a 400 pound man, works at an undercover raccoon killing company under Tim, the ruthless CEO, and alongside his vicious coworkers. After a long series of provocations from all of these people, Jeffrey partly unintentionally murders Tim while trying to save a reporter who discovered the true raccoon burial pit from him. He tearfully buries Tim and appoints himself CEO in a fake letter, but is discovered later that night at an office party and put in prison for 50 years.
The entire piece was so vivid and unique, especially Jeffery’s characterization, so in the story, I decided to highlight absurd details and provocations that are built up in such a way as to both make a murderer, and get the reader to sympathize with a murderer. Saunders makes the weird details seem effortless and natural, and they color the story and entertain while all having much deeper resonances overall. I was wondering, did anyone see a parallel between the raccoons and Jeffery or Tim(Mostly Tim)? I sensed there was an underlying connection there, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Other great details were the drunken nanny with a yearbook, Barbies in grass skirts on a fake volcano at the Hawaiian restaurant, and Jeffery’s feminine hat duties in prison. Also, Tim was so masterfully fleshed out in every way for us to hate him, and Jeffery was fleshed out in a way that made the reader pity and sympathize with him, so that in the end we are able to excuse a murder. Also, I loved how after Tim dies, Jeffery uses his talent for writing invoices to write a kind of invoice in the form of a forged letter to explain away the death. But, he’d given up at that point, and I’m suspect he knew that he was about to get caught, so he wanted to live out his fantasy for a little while before his eventual end. IN my writing, I want to learn to master detail like Saunders and use it only where needed, and also to build up conflict and tension as artfully as he does. What did you think of Frieda? What is your favorite quality of the story?