Antonya Nelson’s fiction piece “Chapter Two” begins with the introduction of Bergeron Love, in which she stands naked on her neighbor’s porch, asking to come in. After being let in, the narrator introduces Bergeron to her roommate and they spark up a conversation based on Bergeron’s outlandish stunts around the neighborhood and the fact that her attempts in getting arrested while walking around naked were in fact, not working. Through the narrator’s flashbacks and her recollection of the stories she tells about her neighbor at AA, we learn about Bergeron Love’s history and the impact she’s made in her neighborhood, regardless if it was positive or negative. After an uncomfortable conversation about the embarrassment of Bergeron’s son, in which her boyfriend comes over to join in on, she is swept away to her own house and the narrator is left to reflect. The narrator, Hil, then jumps to a conversation she has with a friend from AA, revealing that less than a week after that naked encounter, Bergeron dies of a heart attack. In the resolution, we are prompted with the idea that Hil will continue to share the stories of Bergeron at AA, perhaps because that is all that made her life interesting in the end.
Many techniques were utilized by Antonya Nelson, but one that I chose to highlight and really reflect on is the ever-changing shift in the attention of the characters. Throughout the piece, it becomes obvious that Bergeron Love is very fond of having the attention of others on her, whether it is reflected in positive and negative connotations–such as her influential changes to better the neighborhood, or even stunts such as walking around in public attempting to be arrested. In the story, we also filled in on Bergeron’s prior experiences and in the particular ways which she uses this attention in attempt to change her community. For instance, when she called CPS on another neighbor with good intentions, but ended up only to receive the backlash which led to the negative attention towards her and her son. Despite portraying the not so glamorous ways of Bergeron Love, the reader still manages to find a subtle hint of sympathy with her for her family issues and her efforts to be heard. The reader is intrigued by her stunts, and her everlasting desire for our attention perpetuates our interest to continue reading.
Another technique skillfully utilized by the writer was her ability to make us turn on a character in which we might have rooted for in the beginning. This technique can be depicted through Hil’s character. We understand her logic in the beginning and come to terms with the fact that Bergeron is just a neighborhood nuisance who loves to start drama, but slowly we are revealed facts from Hil’s life that make us question her credibility. Hil states on the last page, “…had not had a drink for eleven months now,” showing us that in fact, Hil does not need to attend AA meetings or even tell the story of her neighbor. The reader is left to infer that perhaps Hil craves attention too, but her need is more subtle. Because of Hil’s home life, she feels the need to go out and tell this story in order to receive “approval” from her peers in the sense that she too has an interesting life. Hil even goes on to state that she doesn’t even start the story from the same part every time, almost using Bergeron’s life as her own pastime. In the end, the reader assumes that this attention-seeking behavior will continue, Bergeron’s death now the “Chapter Two”.
Working to implement these techniques in your piece can really improve your characters and that depiction that the reader can take from your writing. Character analysis and how one changes can be a very strong plot line if you are able to evoke emotions and opinions from your readers that lead them to make inferences and continue reading. Being able to sway a reader’s judgement on a character is a very strong tool, and when done right, adds to the overall meaning of the writing and significance of the text to a particular reader.