In “Our Lady of Peace” by ZZ Packer, the reader follows Lynnea, a new ninth grade English teacher at an inner city, Baltimore school. Lynnea goes through training in a summer instead of two years, happy to have a job outside of the Odair Quickie Mart. As she starts, she has no control over any of her students. She hates what she is going through. Meanwhile, she is informed that Rob the Cop, a man she had gone through training with, has resigned from teaching. Suddenly, Lynnea’s classroom is changed as a new student joins, Sheba. Though scared at first when she is informed that Sheba knifed her last teacher, the two strike up a symbiotic relationship. While Sheba commands the classroom and is able to learn, Lynnea is able to teach her students. It all changes when Sheba stops coming to class on a regular basis and one of the other girls reveals she is pregnant. One night, Lynnea offers to give Sheba a ride home to Our Lady of Peace, a horrifying building with a tremendously large statue of the Virgin Mary. On her way home, as she’s rushing, Robert the Cop pulls her over. As she speeds off yet again, she nearly hits two boys, and realizes, once they come out alive, that she is never going to see Sheba again, that her teaching days are done.
“Our Lady of Peace,” by ZZ Packer, had very intriguing dialogue and images that were used to artfully move the story along. The dialogue was used sporadically near the beginning, condensing as the story went on. By using them each with specific purposes to show the emotions or characterization of the scene, ZZ Packer is able to limit the amount of dialogue needed to show how characters interact. Similarly, imagery is used to show how characters interact with each other and the environment. By using an abundance of carefully worded images, ZZ Packer is able to relay the emotions of the narrator. Through the use of this imagery, from surroundings to people themselves, the reader is able to see not only the narrators emotions, but how everyone else views her.
I would like to imitate ZZ Packer’s ability to use a little bit of information and be able to get a large emotional point across. Also her ability to uniquely describe everyday things in an unexpected way is intriguing and something that I would like to imitate. Also, being able to create a character so fresh and interesting like Venus is something that I strive to do.
- What did you think about Robert the Cop’s reaction to teaching versus Lynnea’s? Is it what you expected?
- How could Lynnea have handled the road boys better?
- What do you think of the opening with the girl and Lynnea waiting for cabs and the ending, where she decides to stop what she spent the story working towards?
- What are your opinions of Venus?