“How to Escape from a Leper Colony” Write Up by Henry, Meg, and Sydney

Summary Part 1: Henry

“How to Escape a Leper Colony” is a story about a young girl who is sent away from her home to a secluded island in the caribbean because she is a leper. This begins with her being dropped off on a dock by her mother. Not only is she traveling to the colony because she is a leper, but also because she must bury her father, who has died and will be buried on the island. She is taken by a volunteer in his boat to the island, where she is dropped off. After she arrives, a nun orders her to go bathe in the sea. After she is done bathing, she meets a young man named Lazaro. She and Lazaro talk, and she tells him it’s her father who’s being cremated the next day. Lazaro tells her that he has leprosy in his head.

Summary Part 2: Meg

Deepa describes the churches on the island, one Protestant and one Catholic, and how it is not considered all right to be Hindu. Her mom is Christian, but her dad is Hindu, so she knows a bit about both. For several nights, she sleeps in surgery. The nuns debate about where to put her, and end up putting her with an old African woman, who Deppa grew close to. She and Lazaro go on walks through the island, often to places where the lepers aren’t allowed to go. One day, he takes her to the nun’s burial ground. They discuss that they both want to be buried under graves, even though they will be cremated. They talk for awhile longer about God and the leper colony, causing Deepa to get very emotional. A few days later, Deepa goes into surgery where the doctor cuts away part of her arm that shows signs of leprosy. Two days after the surgery, Deepa and Lazaro go to watch a movie. Lazaro and Deepa then decide to make an altar to the Hindu goddess Kali, although they don’t tell people that. People assume that they are building a house for them to spend some time in together.

Summary Part 3: Sydney 

Deepa and Lazaro build a rough Hindu shrine which they call Kali. One night, they are caught sleeping by their Kali. Since the colony is very Christian, they get in huge trouble and a volunteer hits Kali with a torch. Deepa passes out and wakes up back in Tantie B’s hut, learning that she was hit in the face and knocked out. Deepa also finds out that Lazaro and the volunteer are missing. She goes to the beach and sees a nun’s dead body floating in the water. Later that day, other nuns commit suicide as well by jumping off the cliff and into the ocean. This gives the lepers an opportunity to escape by swimming away. Deepa walks into the water and presumably escapes, while Tantie B stays behind because she cannot swim.

Henry’s Analysis

This story has a very flowing and natural sequence of dialogue in it. The subject is very dark, but the story is able to remain uplifting and humorous. The imagery is vivid and powerful. Leprosy is a very visual disease, and Yanique effectively captures the misery of people who had it before proper modern medicine and healing techniques. There is a lot of discussion of religion and many religious allusions and symbols in the text.

Lazaro was not the name he was born with. He was given that name because he refused to die.

The main character has a lot of inner conflict and problems inside her own head. She’s there for the cremation of her father, but also there for the rest of her life, or at least until her leprosy goes away. There is a lot of talk about race in this story. Lazaro mentions that everybody on the island was Indian.

“You thinking wrong. Here we all Indian, no matter how much African we have in us.”

I can learn a lot from this story. The characters talk to each other in a free flowing and smooth manner. They sound like real people talking to each other. In some stories, characters talk to each other in a way that doesn’t sound entirely natural and flowing. It sounds instead like the author saying things for them. It can be difficult to make characters sound like they’re actually speaking to each other and to make sure that dialogue sounds like real world dialogue.

This story has lots of symbolism and metaphors hidden inside of it. They build an altar to Kali, who is the Hindu Goddess of destruction and fire. They reject the Christian message that the nuns have tried to put on them, and when they do, the nuns set fire to the altar. This is ironic, since the goddess is of destruction and fire anyways. The main character is burnt by these flames, which can be seen as a sacrifice to the goddess.

In conclusion, This story is rich with metaphors, symbolism, and vivid imagery. There is a lot to learn from the flowing dialogue, smooth storytelling and the imaginative characters and symbolism.  

Meg’s Analysis 

One major element of the story, and nearly any story, are the settings. The story begins with the protagonist, whose name we later find out is Deepa, sitting with her mother a relatively large town by the ocean. The town is large and bustling, with people all around shown by the quote,

Men crowded around a small stand that sold raw oysters. They dipped the shells in hot pepper sauce before slurping the meat down their throats. Women reached up for brightly colored buckets and brooms that hung on display. My mother and I rushed by, avoiding getting close to people.

Deepa has never seen anything like this before.

Then, a nun comes to take Deepa to Chacachacare, a leper colony, where the rest of the story takes place.

The boat sped off to the other, safer, healthy side of the island. I faced the intake house. It was a welcoming hue. Not the color of sores or withered limbs. The walls were blue, a mother’s color, and the trimmings were green, the color of life. I did not think I would be unhappy here.

Deepa’s first impression of Chacachacare is positive, and she believes it to be welcoming. Deepa goes to take a bath, and meets Lazaro on the beach. He tells her that

“Here we all Indian, no matter how much African we have in us.”

This is the first indication that Chacachacare isn’t as nice as Deepa thought when she first arrived. The Indian people are not treated very well, and everyone is given an amount of disrespect, although frequently through small things such as burning corpses rather than burying them, which is considered better. We find out later that Indian people are burnt instead of buried because some of them are Hindu, rather than Christian, and only Christians get buried under graves, although it is worth noting that even Christian Indians are burnt, because they are just assumed to be Hindu.

There were two churches. One for the Catholics, where the nuns joined us on Sundays, and one for the Protestants, who were thought of as exotic. There wasn’t any place for Hindus.

Hindus are seen as worse than Christians, as the leper colony is run, in part, by nuns. Throughout “How To Escape A Leper Colony”, religion is a very important part of the setting and the story, as it provides the major conflict of the story. At the end of the story, after Lazaro leaves and commits the crimes, the colony has lost all of their hope, driving them, in their desperation, into trying to swim for the mainland.

The second element that I tracked where some of the characters and their characterization.

Instead she kissed me on the mouth and made me promise not to eat the sweets


She a woman who works in the cane field. She does pray to Saint Ann to send her signs.

These quotes embody most of the characterization that is given to the mother. She is a deeply religious woman who is also both loving and strict. She isn’t in the story for very long, but she does appear throughout the story in Deepa’s thoughts and flashbacks, and her actions in the past indirectly impact Deepa’s actions throughout the story, such as her implying to Deepa that she and her father would be buried under graves, but the mother was, overall clueless as to how poorly the Indians were treated, which, indirectly, contributed to Deepa and Lazaro’s rebellion later on in the story.

Another major character is Lazaro, although  

Lazaro was not the name he was born with. He was given that name because he refused to die.

The name Lazaro relates to the biblical figure, who is associated with rebirth. This name, and the characterization around it, suggests that he is tough, both physically and emotionally. Through the exposition in the beginning of the story, we learn that his mother was killed in front of him as a child. This shapes his character throughout the story, for better and for worse. He becomes attached to Deepa throughout the story, but, when they are found out, he becomes set on vengeance, no matter if he has to hurt himself and Deepa in order to achieve it.

Finally, and arguably, most importantly, Deepa begins the story with a sort of hope, which, throughout the story is crushed. She loses her faith that she would be buried under a grave instead of being burnt. She begins to wonder if her mother has moved on, and it is implied, abandoned her. She also is brave at the beginning, but she breaks down in front of Lazaro, about her mother and her situation. She eventually gets to the point where she doesn’t care that she is going against the church in her and Lazaro’s building of the statue of Kali.

It felt as though we were playing a game. But I knew it was not a game.

This shows that she had given up hope of being respected, and of surviving. At a different time, she said that she had given up hope of her being buried under a grave. The only hope she has left is in Lazaro, and once he disappears and begins wreaking havoc, she gives up even more. At the very end of the story, she seems to have some hope that the group could make it to the mainland, even though she knows in her heart that she will not survive.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why would the author decide to describe Deepa’s first impressions of Chacachacare as generally positive and welcoming?
  2. Why does the author begin the story with a glimpse into Lazaro’s past and foreshadowing to his actions towards the end of the story?

Sydney’s Analysis

The first element I looked at was scene vs summary. Yanique uses a good balance of both, describing some parts of the story with extensive detail and imagery, but summarizes other parts with far less detail, only providing necessary information. For example, the very first line uses summary.

The nuns said that it was pardonable because of depression and stress. But these are words used when we want to forgive a crime but know we cannot.

Yanique doesn’t describe what exactly was pardonable, or what crime was committed. This builds suspense and foreshadows what happens later in the story. Summary is used frequently throughout the first part of the story, but the author begins to use scene more often when Deepa meets Lazaro.

We climbed down the hill to look at the burial site. The grounds were clean but sharp with ankle high grass. When we walked we made a swishing sound like waves. The stones over the graves were marked: Sister Marie, Lover of the Lord; Sister Margaret, Lover of the Word; Sister Ann, Lover of the poor and the wretched. We sat among the stones. Lazaro inspected my arm.

In this paragraph, Yanique uses scene to describe what the burial site looks like. While at the burial site, Deepa and Lazaro have a conversation about what they love, which is also scene. Another time scene is used is when Deepa and Lazaro build their Hindu shrine, named Kali.

Yanique clearly describes how they built her out of wood and put flowers at her feet. The biggest scene in the story occurs when the two friends are caught sleeping at the shrine. Not only do they get in trouble for worshipping another goddess at a Christian leper colony, but they also raise suspicions of fornicating, which was unacceptable.

The second element I tracked was the separation of lepers from society. In this story, the lepers are treated almost like prisoners instead of people.

The lepers sat in the front rows. The nuns sat in the very back, like chaperons.

Not only were they socially separated, but they were physically separated as well, with the lepers keeping to one side of the island. They had their own side of the fence, their own side of the beach.

Lazaro and I often went beyond the fence that kept the lepers to the leper side.

They had a physical fence separating them from the nuns and volunteers, and an ocean separating them from the rest of the world. Sometimes lepers are even treated as less than human.

Killing a young mother is not such a big thing if the mother is a leper, especially if she was a leper when she conceived.

Yanique states that killing a young mother who is a leper is not as bad as killing somebody who is not a leper. This goes to show that people thought of the lepers as being lesser.

Discussion questions:
1.) Why do you think Deepa has a grudge against Christianity?
2.) Do you think that the lepers were treated fairly?

“Suffer the Little Children” Write Up by Avalon, Elijah, and Meghana

Summary Part 1: Avalon

Miss Sidley is an older woman who teaches third grade. Her students fear her, for she can see all that they do. Miss Sidley uses the reflection in her glasses to watch the class whenever her back is turned. It’s as a good as an eye on the back of her head.

Miss Sidley is going over vocabulary words with the children, when she notices a student named Robert, stare at her through the corner of her glasses. Miss Sidley asks Robert to use the next vocabulary word, “tomorrow”, in a sentence. “Tomorrow a bad thing will happen,” Robert says. Then he smiles at Miss Sidley through her glasses, and she is sure that he has caught on with her trick.

Miss Sidley turns back around to continue writing words on the chalkboard. She glimpses at the reflection of her glasses again, and she sees an unpleasant sight. Robert’s face changes. It morphs into something “different”. She spins around quickly to see Robert’s face for herself, hurting her braced back in the process. He appears to look normal. She continues writing on the board for the rest of class, never glancing back at the reflection in her glasses.

On his way out of the classroom, Robert gives Miss Sidley a look that tells her they have a secret. And for the rest of her evening, the look remains on Miss Sidley’s mind. After her dinner, Miss Sidley goes to bed. Before drifting off to sleep, she sees Robert’s face floating. Robert’s face changes again, but before Ms. Sidley can decipher what it looks like, everything goes dark.

Miss Sidley returns to school the next morning with little patience, for she barely slept the night before. The school day seemed to drag, but when her students were finally dismissed, Mr. Hanning approaches Miss Sidley, and he asks her to refill the paper towels in the girls’ restroom.

Summary Part 2: Elijah

A little later in the story she holds Robert back because she is so suspicious of him and she sees him “change “ Into a monster this causes her to completely freak out and run into the hallway screaming, then outside down the steps and right in front of a bus which almost hits her, when she is calmed down by Mr. Henning.

Summary Part 3: Meghana

Miss Sidley was fed up with the children’s secrets, so she decided to take a month off from teaching. When she came back, she was taunted by Robert and the others kids who would laugh and smile secretively together. The next day, she brought a gun to school and told the students that they were taking a test in another room one at a time. She took Robert first to a soundproof room. There he told Miss Sidley that there are more of us, and his features became twisted. She shot him in the head and realized he was still human. She brought in twelve more children before she was eventually caught. She was sent to an asylum where they put her through a therapy where she would take care of some children. She then committed suicide.

Avalon’s Analysis

The first craft element of “Suffer the Little Children” I looked at was point of view. While reading the story, I was able to pick up on the specific rules Stephen King seemed to follow while he was writing. The entire story maintains a third person point of view. However, even though the POV is in third person, the majority of the story is through Miss Sidley’s perspective. Later on in the story, the perspective shifts to Buddy Jenkins.

The very first sentence of this story (quoted below) introduces to the readers the main character of the tale, and it (sort of) indicates that the story will be told in third person point of view.

Miss Sidley was her name, and teaching was her game.

This sentence shows us the main character (Miss Sidley) by presenting her name and occupation. This doesn’t exactly prove to the readers that Miss Sidley is going to be the main character of the story, but it does show us that she will be significant to the tale.

Also, this sentence refers to Miss Sidley as “her” which would indicate third person point of view. However, for all we know, at this point of the story, it could still be told in first person POV. For example, if “Suffer the Little Children” was to be a story told through first person point of view, the main character/ narrator could just be describing Miss Sidley in this sentence, then switch to “I” and “my” pronouns later on. Though that is not the case, it still remained a valid possibility. But because for the remainder of the story, “she” and “her” pronouns are used, it proves “Suffer the Little Children” to be third person POV.

She whirled around, face white, barely noticing the protesting stab of pain in her back.

Readers can infer that the perspective at this point of the story is Miss Sidley’s. This line helps us know that with the words “barely noticing the protesting stab of pain in her back.” I say this because, if you were to simply watch Miss Sidley turn around, you wouldn’t be able to know her back was in pain unless she were to express it somehow. Here, in this part of the story, Miss Sidley provides no physical indication that her back hurts. But the writer is letting us know that it does by providing us her thoughts.

A “rule” of point of view that I noticed King followed in this writing was using italics to indicate a change from third person POV to first person POV. Throughout the story, there are paragraphs in italic that are written in Miss Sidley’s point of view, like the passages below.

I imagined it, she thought. I was looking for something, and when there was nothing, my mind just made something up. Very cooperative of it.

Stop that! she told herself sternly. You’re acting like a skittish girl just out of teachers’ college!

What was it I saw when he changed? Something bulbous. Something that shimmered. Something that stared at me, yes, stared and grinned and wasn’t a child at all. It was old and it was evil and…

These excerpts are mainly thoughts that Miss Sidley has, but they do use “I” and “my” pronouns which would mean they’re first person.

Towards the end of the story, the perspective appears to change, but third person POV remains relevant. (Shown below).

Buddy Jenkins was his name, psychiatry was his game.

Here, we see that this sentence imitates the story’s first sentence that introduced us to Miss Sidley. It acts like a transition sentence, shifting the perspective from Miss Sidley to Buddy Jenkins. Yes, the POV still remains in third person, but it now shows us Buddy Jenkins’ perspective opposed to Miss Sidley’s by providing us only his inner thoughts from here on out of the story (like the quote shown below). In the story, everything that follows the sentence, “Buddy Jenkins was his name, psychiatry was his game.” no longer includes any insight on Miss Sidley.

For a time Buddy thought she responded well.

And here (quoted below), it shows us Ms. Sidley’s expressions but provides no background information on why she feels this way.

Then she seemed to see something which disturbed her; a frown creased her brow and she looked away from the children.

So it’s like we are seeing her from Buddy Jenkins’ eyes.


In “Suffer the Little Children”, I’d definitely say that there are a lot more summaries than there are scenes. In this story, Stephen King uses summaries to provide background information on Miss Sidley, and he uses them as transitions and time leaps in the story.

They knew Miss Sidley’s deadly instincts too well. Miss Sidley could always tell who was chewing gum at the back of the room, who had a beanshooter in his pocket, who wanted to go to the bathroom to trade baseball cards rather than use the facilities. Like God, she seemed to know everything an at once.

I highlighted part of the second paragraph of “Suffer the Little Children” (shown above), because I viewed it as a summary. According to Janet Burroway’s “Summary and Scene”, part of a summary’s purpose is to “fill in a character’s background”, and I believe these words do just that.

From this passage, one can infer what kind of teacher Miss Sidley is (controlling, observative, fearful, intuitive, strict, etc.). And with that very last sentence, it shows us why the children fear her, but it also says a lot about her character.

She was graying, and the brace she wore to support her failing back was limned clearly against her print dress. Small, constantly suffering, gimleteyed woman. But they feared her. Her tongue was a schoolyard legend. The eyes, when focused on a giggler or a whisperer, could turn the stoutest knees to water.

And it’s the same concept with this paragraph, it provides us with important background information of Miss Sidley’s character.

There are also summaries in this short story that serve as a transition or a leap in time such as the passages below.

Again the day seemed to drag, and she believed she was more relieved than the children when the last bell rang. The children lined up in orderly rows at the door, boys and girls by height, hands dutifully linked.

No trial.

The papers screamed for one, bereaved parents Swore hysterical oaths against Miss Sidley, and the city sat back on its haunches in numb shock, but in the end, cooler heads prevailed and there was no trial. The State Legislature called for more stringent teacher exams, Summer Street School closed for a week of mourning, and Miss Sidley went quietly to juniper Hill in Augusta. She was put in deep analysis, given the most modem drugs, introduced into daily work-therapy sessions. A year later, under strictly controlled conditions, Miss Sidley was put in an experimental encounter-therapy situation.

The passages quoted below, are paragraphs I highlighted as scenes.

That was when the shadows changed. They seemed to elongate, to flow like dripping tallow, taking on strange hunched shapes that made Miss Sidley cringe back against the porcelain washstands, her heart swelling in her chest.

But they went on giggling.

The voices changed, no longer girlish, now sexless and soulless, and quite, quite evil. A slow, turgid sound of mindless humor that flowed around the corner to her like sewage.

She stared at the hunched shadows and suddenly screamed at them. The scream went on and on, swelling in her head until it attained a pitch of lunacy. And then she fainted. The giggling, like the laughter of demons, followed her down into darkness.

I highlighted these paragraphs as scene because Burroway describes scenes to be significant moments, and they “…deal(s) with a relatively short period of time at length.” This occurrence in the bathroom where Ms. Sidley sees the little girls turn into mysterious, evil figures, is definitely a significant point in the story. I also believe if this situation were happening in real life, it would be at a faster pace. I feel like the part when the children’s shadows morphed to when their voices changed, was written in a pace slower than the pace it would’ve actually taken up in reality. To me, it seems like the writer purposefully slowed this scene down to create imagery and give the reader a more vivid understanding of the events taking place.

Robert changed.

His face suddenly ran together like melting wax, the eyes flattening and spreading like knife-struck egg yolks, nose widening and yawning, mouth disappearing. The head elongated, and the hair was suddenly not hair but straggling, twitching growths.

Robert began to chuckle.

The slow, cavernous sound came from what had been his nose, but the nose was eating into the lower half of his face, nostrils meeting and merging into a central blackness like a huge, shouting mouth.

Robert got up, still chuckling, and behind it all she could see the last shattered remains of the other Robert, the real little boy this alien thing had usurped, howling in maniac terror, screeching to be let out. She ran.

She fled screaming down the corridor, and the few late-leaving pupils turned to look at her with large and uncomprehending eyes. Mr Hanning jerked open his door and looked out just as she plunged through the wide glass front doors, a wild, waving scarecrow silhouetted against the bright September sky.

I’d classify these few paragraphs as a scene as well. The first couple of paragraphs are slower and more detailed, leaving the last couple more realistically paced, but I still decided to highlight all of it for scene. I feel as though, even if the last couple of paragraphs weren’t as dramatically paced, that they are still relevant for the scene, because they still illustrate the significant occurrence of Robert’s transformation.

Discussion questions:

  1. Why do you think King switches from Miss Sidley’s perspective to Buddy Jenkins’ perspective at the time he does? (Opposed to switching perspectives after Miss Sidley commits suicide?)
  2. Why does King decide to have the story skip an entire year before illustrating Miss Sidley’s new life in the mental asylum?

Elijah’s Analysis

This story was thought provoking , and really led me down a path of understanding that I hadn’t really cared to travel before. Stephen King’s use of the different elements in the story really conveyed what was happening, like the use of not the girls themselves but their shadows are what Ms. Sidley sees, and how her descent into maddens feels like a very believable one, because she seconds guesses her self to worrying to having a complete break down over what she believes is happening that you almost feel bad for her in a way. Especially when during the breakdown she feels as if the kids surround her like a noose, and in a sort of way  kind of mocking her. I also like how after the break down she doesn’t just show up at school the next day but takes a month long break, which really adds to her humanity and how she is just as troubled as any normal person would be in the situation, but also adds to the double edged sword that is her mental state becoming worse and her losing the ability to distinguish reality from fantasy. The last point is really helped by the perspective the story is written, the degradation and loss of sanity can really be felt and expressed through which words Stephen King used and how he used them.  And her mid to final action do not seem out of character at all.

Discussion Questions:

1. Do ms. Sidley’s actions seem unjustified in her own right?

2. Does the setting of the story impact how Ms. Sidley interprets things?

Meghana’s Analysis

The first aspect that I highlighted was characterization of Miss Sidley. Miss Sidley had her class under a death grip where no one was allowed to breathe. She tolerated no distractions from what she was teaching. The children were very clearly scared of her.

One  of  her  little  tricks  was  the  careful  use  of  her glasses.  The  whole  class  was reflected in  their  thick lenses  and  she  had  always  been  thinly  amused  by their  guilty,  frightened  faces  when  she  caught  them  at their  nasty  little  games.

This shows that she could watch the children even when she was turned away. It pleases her to scare them, so she has power in the classroom. She is seen as authoritative and doesn’t let anyone see her weaknesses.

She  would  not  have  people  thinking  her  insane,  or that  the  first  feelers  of  senility  had  touched  her  early.

She  didn’t  care for  what  she  saw – not  a  bit.  There  was  a  look  that hadn’t  been  there  two  days  before,  a  frightened, watching  look.

Miss Sidley couldn’t let others see the emotional side of her that wavered from time to time. She had to look stronger because her students wouldn’t fear her the same way. This is why she is nervous that Robert knows her secret on how to watch the students. Part of the terror that comes from Miss Sidley is that no one knows how she sees them doing the wrong thing. This gives her character a little more depth. She lives alone, so she has no one to express her feelings to. Bottling up her feelings most likely added to her insanity that showed itself in the end.

Students are afraid of Miss Sidley, and she feeds off this fear. In the first quote, it says that she is “thinly amused by their guilty, frightened faces”. She likes to see that she spreads panic through her class. She makes sure no one is completely comfortable. They all sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation on who she will call on next. She enjoys making them restless and calling their misbehaving out.

She waited,  almost  hoping  for  a  whisperer,  a  giggler, perhaps  a  note-passer.

This is another example of how she is delighted to scold others. Miss Sidley hopes to catch other children. Their sufferings brings joy to her, which makes her even scarier to her students. She clearly doesn’t like being around children. Throughout the story, she complains of how much she despises each one, as if they are cockroaches. Her hatred towards children makes her violent. She doesn’t hesitate or feel any guilt when these hostile thoughts pass through her mind. Her morals are concerning throughout. She has questionable values that lead her to murdering the children. You can see this in her thoughts and actions:

She  would  shake  them.  Shake  them  until their  teeth rattled  and  their  giggles  turned  to  wails,  she  would thump  their  heads  against  the  tile  walls.

He  did  nothing  to  warrant  the  punishment,  so  she simply  accused  him  falsely.  She  felt  no  qualms.

Miss Sidley has pride and structure in her life. She wants success from everyone. She doesn’t want to be pitied, she wants to be respected. She radiates power as a teacher and even to other adults. Miss Sidley rarely shows vulnerability. She wears her strength like a crown and expects only the best from everyone, especially herself.

They reminded  her  of  gamblers  unable  to  leave  the  tables while  they  were  losing.  But she was  not  losing.  She had  always  been  a  winner.

She also has rules in her mind that must be followed. She is stubborn and believes that her way of living is correct. She is close minded, separating life into black and white. She is logical, and everything has an explanation in her mind.

She  did  not  wish to  be  a  murderess.  She  decided  the  real  Robert  must have  died  or  gone  insane.

In this example, she tells herself that she isn’t doing anything “wrong” because the child is a monster. She is giving a justification to breaking the rules because she wants to make any guilt disappear. She creates excuses to explain what she does.

I  imagined  it, she  thought.  I was  looking  for something,  and  when  there  was  nothing,  my  mind  just made  something  up.  Very  cooperative  of  it.

Here, she says that she imagined seeing Robert change into a monster. She then says that her mind is very cooperative, as if to pat herself on the back for giving a reason for something so unordinary to happen. Miss Sidley wouldn’t let herself stray too far from the designated rules.

I also tracked the conflict grow throughout the passage. It started out with denial. Miss Sidley refused to believe that she had seen Robert change. She made excuses for what she had seen. Robert continues to hint at knowing more than he should, with only his eyes.

He  looked  back  with childlike  innocence: Who,  me?  Not me,  Miss Sidley.

A  look  that  said, We have  a  secret,  don’t  we?

Miss Sidley is followed by smiles and giggles of other children. She sees the face that Robert changed into more. She begins to believe the impossible and wonders what Robert knows. The suspense and whispers drives her crazy. She cannot concentrate, and she can’t stop thinking that something is wrong.

And  then  he-‘
Soft  giggles.
‘She  knows,  but-‘
More  giggles,  soft  and  sticky  as  melting  soap.
‘Miss  Sidley  is-‘
Stop  it!  Stop  that  noise!

This caught my attention while reading. She used to be able to control these children like puppets, but now, they are laughing at her. More and more people begin to whisper behind her, and she grows more paranoid. This adds to her eventually going crazy. She is used to having everything within her reach, like chess pieces on a board. She had all the power, but she is losing the fear that was instilled in them. Their voices are no longer only following her. They are distorting, showing their true colors.

But  they  went  on  giggling. The  voices  changed,  no  longer  girlish,  now  sexless and  soulless,  and  quite,  quite  evil.  A  slow,  turgid sound of  mindless  humor  that  flowed  around  the corner  to  her  like  sewage.

After punishing Robert for no reason, she holds him after school. There, Robert reveals that there are more of the monsters. They were growing in numbers, and he wasn’t Robert at all. Robert was lost beneath the monster in him. This is when Miss Sidley sees him change again. She no longer believes that she imagined it. She knows that they are all monsters. Miss Sidley shows fear, something she hadn’t done in public yet. She doesn’t know who she can trust.

As  if  they  were  …Hiding  behind  masks?

“Robert – the other Robert – he liked  Show  and  Tell.  He’s  still  hiding  way,  way  down in  my  head.”

Miss Sidley comes back to school a month later. She had been left alone with her thoughts and fears festering inside her for too long. She had no one to talk to, no one to help her. This led to her complete insanity. She killed twelve children. Even though she knew that she killed a human,

It  was  human.
It  was  Robert.
It  was  all  in  your  mind…

she continued to kill the students. When she was found, she said that they were all monsters. She was screaming at children and made no sense. She became a threat to others and was sent away. She went to an experimental therapy to see how she would react to children. She committed suicide afterwards. She did this because in her mind, she could still see the monsters. All children in her mind were beasts. After she was left alone with her fears for a moth, she couldn’t see them as anything else. It soaked in too far for anyone to reverse.

In the story, Miss Sidley refers to children as evil. She knew there was a darkness that was among all o them. This foreshadowed the reveal that they were all monsters in her mind, and they all needed to be gone.

Robert’s face  floated  in  front  of  her,  smiling  unpleasantly  in the  darkness  behind  her  lids.  The  face  began  to change. But  before  she  saw  exactly  what  it  was  changing  into, darkness  overtook  her.

wasn’t  a child  at  all.  It was  old  and  it  was  evil…

The children were scaring her. This was not something she was used to, and she didn’t handle it well. Robert talked to her like they were an army coming after her.

‘There’s  so  many  of  us  now  you  wouldn’t  believe  it,’ he  said.  ‘And  neither  would  anyone  else.’

They  were  ringed  in  a  tight  little  circle,  like mourners  around  an  open  grave.  And  at  the  head  of the  grave  was  Robert,  a  small  sober  sexton  ready  to shovel  the  first  spade  of  dirt  into  her  face.

Miss Sidley began to see them as a threat to herself. She needed to get rid of the threat. They were dangerous, but Robert made sure that she had no one to go to. Anyone she talked to her would think she was insane. She felt desperate, lonely, and afraid. If you keep all those emotions inside of you for too long, they will bubble up and explode. She was driven to the point where her only options were to kill all the children.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What internal and external events lead to Miss Sidley murdering the children?
  2. What made Miss Sidley commit suicide?

“Residents of the Air” Write Up by Izabella Sifuentes

Sharma Shields’ “Residents of the Air” begins during the hottest summer on record, where wildfires force people stay indoors. In addition to this, houses begin to float. The first home to rise goes mostly unnoticed. After this, more and more houses congregate in the air, rising away from the ground and the smoke. People worry at first, but then are comforted as most of the resources they need join them up in the sky. People travel easily from building to building and their homes do not drift away. The fresh air has improved everyone’s health and they discover, by accident, if they fall they bounce right back up. For these reasons, the ‘residents of the air’ love their new lives, even if they still don’t know what caused them to ascend in the first place.

Below the floating homes, many people’s homes still have not risen. Naya Williams is one of those people, as she and her children are stuck on the surface. She doesn’t know the reason her house hasn’t risen, but she still feels guilty about it. Her friend advises her to stay positive, but Naya has difficulty doing that. Even so, she tries her best. She gets her children away from the defunct television, telling them to get creative. They begrudgingly comply, asking when their dad is coming home. Naya really can’t say, as his workplace rose with him in it. While he may not be living in paradise, Naya still would rather be up there than on the smoky, sulfurous surface. Her goal is to get her and her family out of danger, somehow. While her kids busy themselves with colors and cookies, Naya goes out for a walk. On her walk, she notices the many homes that have not risen either. She reaches the edge of a river and sits there for a while. Naya sees a stream of creatures fleeing from the forest and realizes the wildfire has reached her neighborhood. She runs back, warning people on the way. Naya, in the midst of her fear, is shocked at how many people were still stuck on the surface.

Up in the air, people are oblivious to the conditions below. The smoke of the wildfires obscures their view, so they can only hope that everything is alright. While a few people are unhappy, most get used to ignoring the goings on below them. They find it’s no use to worry about those on the surface, as the residents of the air can find they can’t return the way they came.


The chronic tension of this story is the ascension of select buildings and homes/Naya’s guilt and ‘negative thinking’. The acute tension is the impending danger of wildfires/Naya’s struggle to withstand & escape the surface.


I am fascinated by the rising of the houses, the absurdity of it as well as its strange selectiveness. It makes you wonder, as characters do in the story, why would someone not be able to rise too?

In this story, I first highlighted the descriptions of the two different living spaces: the floating haven and the wildfire-plagued surface. These two places are vastly different in appearance and in how they affect the characters, so it’s important to note the ways in which these locations differ. The floating haven, where the residents of the air live, is described as a place where “the air was fresh and everyone had everything they needed, and few people worried about the precariousness of the situation”—a place full of blue skies and bouncy clouds. This idyllic imagery is why this place could be compared to heaven. However, it is not without its flaws. Naya’s husband tells her that, just like her, he is suffering too. There is rationing of water and no way to escape, as one resident of the air finds out in the end. While this may not seem particularly awful, there is also the fact that “their homes rose higher everyday. The sun glowed stronger, the stars shone brighter.” This could be a hopeful line, but not if one remembers that items that ascended so much that “they disappeared, and the residents assumed they disintegrated in the heat of the atmosphere.” Yikes. So is the surface any better? Well…the surface is a place that is full of wildfires, making it “sepia tinted, reeking of burnt flesh”, full of “hollow concrete bones” and “sulfurous air.” A place that makes the reader understand why most residents of the air don’t resist their ascension too much. The only way to escape the surface is if one’s house rises, but there isn’t any more hope for that happening. Even if it did, how much safer would people be up in the air? Hm…

The second element I highlighted in this story are the similes because: 1) I think they’re great 2) they provide more perspective on the characters use them 3) they provide more details to make the two locations distinct. All of the similes in the beginning of the story are whimsical and joyful, as they describe the ascension of the houses and the place they arrive at. The houses are “like balloons released one after another during a parade”, which allows the children of the sky to “[bounce] through the sky now like trapeze artists, little plump gods all their own.” What fun! Now, the first ‘negative’ simile describes the surface, but it is said by the residents of the air:

Barely visible beneath the belt of heavy smoke, a few dozen houses remained locked to the earth, and it felt to the residents of the air like a death sentence.

This comparison is very fitting and gives insight into how grateful they must be that their houses rose. It also sets up how the surface is no place that ‘positivity’ can flourish. The surface (and what it holds) is not compared to anything pleasant. Naya’s children are not little happy gods, they have “coughed and sputtered and stopped asking to go outside. They hung crookedly in front of the television set like clothes pinned to a wire” and look at Naya “like large, angry crows.” Later on, as she runs home, Naya sees women who have “exploded from their dwellings, shouting, and unfolded alongside of her like paper dolls, fragile and identical in their own terror.” These are comparisons that Naya gives, which goes along with her pessimistic/’cautious pragmatist’ way of thinking. The story characterizes Naya through these similes, as it is clear she struggles with ‘thinking positively’—a method that is supposed to help her and her family get out of the smoky, burning surface but only serves to make her feel guiltier.


For my own writing, I could try and include similes or metaphors that really give the reader insight into what kind of person the narrator/character is.

My writing exercise is: Write a story in which you have a factor/event that creates a division, literal or more metaphorical, in the world. It’s up to you whether you specifically mention (or just hint to) the reason as to why this division happens. Does the factor/event happen gradually or all at once? Who or what does it affect?



  • What does the story’s event (of houses rising and stuff) allow itself to be a metaphor for?
  • Does the story specifically say/hint to the reason only some houses rise? (bonus: is Sue’s theory true?)
  • According to the story, is either place really, absolutely better/safer than the other? (bonus: Which one do you think is a better place to be & why?)



“The Husband Stitch” Write Up by Niara Pelton


“The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado follows a woman with a mysterious ribbon around her neck growing up. The story starts off at a party. The narrator is young and meets a handsome young man that she begins a relationship with. She matures sexually, opening herself up to him physically and growing closer to him romantically. Her only rule is that he can’t touch her ribbon. At first, he’s merely curious but brushes it off. They get married and begin a life together; however, as the story and the relationship progress, he becomes more curious in spite of her acquiescence to him.

She continues to try to make him happy and they continue to grow in prosperity. They have a son, which relieves the narrator who was afraid of having a girl with a ribbon. Initially the son respects her boundaries with her ribbon. As they gain more, her husband begins to feel more entitled, demanding access to her ribbon, accusing her of having secrets; he continues to push her boundaries to the point of pulling at the ribbon; however, he doesn’t undo it.

At one point the narrator attends an art class and meets another woman with a ribbon. She’s so excited to meet someone else like her, but after her husband pressures her to talk about it and twists it for his own pleasure she feels too guilty to return to the class and her new friend.

Her son adopts his father’s attitude of pushing boundaries with her ribbon. He gets upset with her, but eventually he forgives her and moves past it more readily than his father.

In the end, her husband presses too far. She allows him to untie the ribbon. He is reverent as he does, but then her head falls to the ground, as she realizes that even though he is a good man, she’s still lonely and alone.

Tensions: The chronic tension is the narrator’s ribbon. The chronic tension is her husband’s fascination, obsession, and eventual removal of it.


The author did an amazing job of harnessing time, conveying multiple decades of development masterfully using narrative structure. The structure of the piece-with the loose narrative form-allowed the writer to fit years, possibly even decades into the story. Readers got to see the character grow. The author made use of the narrative structure, jumping easily throughout time, to show the vivid transitions and development in the characters. We can see the narrator’s evolution from childhood to young womanhood.

As a grown  woman,  I  would  have  said  to  my  father  that  there  are  true  things  in  this  world  only  observed  by  a  single  set  of  eyes.  As a girl,  I  consented  to  his  account  of  the  story,  and  laughed  when  he  scooped  me  from  the  chair  to  kiss  me  and  send  me  on  my  way.

She also conveys the evolution of their relationship through time, compressing years of events easily with the narrative voice and reveals, once again, how the character is evolving. She focuses on the important details in short bursts and allows the reader to fill in the years in between which provides a really engaging reader experience.

When  he  comes  home  each  day,  my  husband  has  a  list  in  his  mind  of  things  he  desires  from  me,  and  I  am  willing  to  provide  them  and  more.  –  I  am  the  luckiest  man  alive,  he  says,  running  his  hands  across  my  stomach.  In  the  mornings,  he  kisses  me  and  fondles  me  and  sometimes  takes  me  before  his  coffee  and  toast.  He  goes  to  work  with  a  spring  in  his  step.  He  comes  home  with  one  promotion,  and  then  another.  More  money  for  my  family,  he  says.  More  money  for  our  happiness.

My  son  is  a  good  baby.  He  grows  and  grows.  We  never  have  another  child,  though  not  for  lack  of  trying.  I  suspect  that  Little  One  did  so  much  ruinous  damage  inside  of  me  that  my  body  couldn’t  house  another.

The author’s characterization of the narrator’s role and opinions as a female work really well to create a strong theme. In the beginning the author effectively shows her assertiveness in the way she thinks and approaches situations boldly, feeling completely in control of her own life, even when defying tradition. She actively decides and orchestrates her first romantic moment, her first kiss, her sexuality, and her marriage. She is proactive and assertive in each of those events, effectively showing her strength and zeal and independence.

In  the  beginning,  I  know  I  want  him  before  he  does.  This  isn’t  how  things  are  done,  but  this  is  how  I  am  going  to  do  them.

I  have  always  wanted  to  choose  my  moment,  and  this  is  the  moment  I  choose.

–  Tell  me  about  your  ribbon,  he  says.
–  There  is  nothing  to  tell.  It’s  my  ribbon.
–  May  I  touch  it?
–  No.
–  I  want  to  touch  it,  he  says.
–  No.

The author shows that strength leaking away, characterizing each of those moments through her changed actions and thoughts. The contrast in characterization gives a stark message. She does whatever her husband asks of her, no longer taking charge of her own desires, but taking on his. She also is gradually less assertive about the ribbon, which leads to the sad ending.

When  he  comes  home  each  day,  my  husband  has  a  list  in  his  mind  of  things  he  desires  from  me,  and  I  am  willing  to  provide  them  and  more.

The  next  day,  our  son  touches  my  throat  and  asks  about  my  ribbon.  He  tries  to  pull  at  it.  And  though  it  pains  me,  I  have  to  make  it  forbidden  to  him.  When  he  reaches  for  it,  I  shake  a  can  full  of  pennies.  It  crashes  discordantly,  and  he  withdraws  and  weeps.  Something  is  lost  between  us,  and  I  never  find  it  again.

Resolve  runs  out  of  me.  I  touch  the  ribbon.  I  look  at  the  face  of  my  husband,  the  beginning  and  end  of  his  desires  all  etched  there.

The husband’s lack of characterization, other than his growing sense of entitlement also progresses the theme. We don’t see his point of view; we just see how he thinks he is entitled to every part of his wife.

The author uses characterization so well that she never has to name the characters. She describes their traits so well that it is unnecessary and she doesn’t bother with unnecessary traits. She doesn’t mince actions; every action of each character conveys something that is essential to the character development as pertains to theme and it’s effective in a short story, because she writes characters that are engaging, without leaving anything out. The evolution of the characters and how their attitudes are shown by their actions makes them engaging because their openness makes them easy to follow.

The way that the author uses point of view gives an in depth perspective that vividly portrays the character’s emotions in a natural way and endears her to readers. She is straightforward and honest and vulnerable and relatable. She is openly conveying the tumultuous time of growing up and falling in love. Her vulnerability compels readers to see how everything will turn out for her. And as we watch it play out we can see all her fears and thoughts in between that couldn’t be portrayed in other narrative forms.

She took a simple, short, tall tale, and made it her own, imbuing the story with her purpose and bringing the characters to life against a more modern backdrop. She did great with how she colored in her own details while remaining true to the outline and bringing it up recurrently throughout the story. Being able to write within the framework of another story can be engaging because of the familiarity; however, she also made it exciting because of the vivid characters that pulled readers along.

Writing Exercise

A writing exercise inspired by this story would be to take the details of an old folk tale or myth or legend. Fill in the details and set it to a modern background. Also, I loved how the narrator told part of the story by vividly weaving in other stories, so another exercise would be to intersperse another story into the story you’re writing to convey the story you want to tell.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think the stories conveyed and why do you think the narrator used them?
  • How do you think the story would have been enhanced by adding in the husband’s perspective?
  • How do you think the character could have been written more assertively?
  • How do you think the son’s behavior-his adoption of his father’s coldness and his forgiveness-adds a layer to the story?
  • How did each of the characters contribute to the theme?
  • How did the narrator’s passiveness affect the theme?
  • Do you think the ending could have been stronger by ending it somewhere else?


“Stress Management” Write Up by Laura Mercado

SUMMARY of “Stress Management” by Glenn L Diaz

At the call desk, the main character recounts about how employees immediately know when supervisors begin to listen in on the phone calls. The audio becomes echo-y and ruins the phone calls for everyone, even Karen, a woman who purposely feminizes her voice in order to lure men to buy whatever she’s selling. It’s revealed through more of the internal monologue that most of the employees had liberal art degrees, and this was the only place work was available. An example of a normal day is given, emphasizing the monotony of daily life with that of the job itself. Something different happened that day, however- that night, their supervisor Brock alerted the team that they were to be evaluated for call flow compliance. No one was working, instead being distracted on computers, except for Mitch. As a result, a software block thing like HISD’s *sigh* would be installed on everyone’s computer. No one’s happy about this, and then it’s revealed they all have mandated Stress Management talk/therapy, too, and even less people are happy about that. Cut again to the unnamed character’s internal monologue; they look back fondly on their graduating days, when they were younger and freer, and compare it to the “dull and unchallenging” life of now. The working hours are in the night, so they think about how their sister company in India is working at the same time as they are. They gossip about the latest American Idol contestant, a Hawaiian resident named Jasmine. The bump into Mitch there, who drops cake and acts really embarrassing, so the group half-unwillingly waves back.  They talk and go back inside after their lunch break ends; they’re almost there when Philip shares a method to not have to talk phone calls, thus giving the department some freedom for the four hours left in the shift. Mitch is the only one working after lunch, with the rest of them adopting the new technique. Finally, the shift ends and Brock proceeds to give the Stress Management talk; the PowerPoint fails for a moment before going back to working. It seems to be a few hours of slow nothingness, and everyone struggles to not fall asleep. Mitch asks a question, and Brock goes off on a philosophical tangent no one quite grasps. Cut to some time later; Jasmine makes it to round 3 on American Idol, Mitch arrives late to work, and Philip lends her a 100$ bill. They go to McDonalds’s, and gossip some more. Lunch break is over, and Brock tells them to go back to work. A bit after they begin to answer calls again, Brock’s supervisor passes down information about 1/3 of the calls made from the center were to American Idol (this was Philip’s workaround). The company lost a load of money and the initial source of the calls was undetectable so, as a punishment, everyone’s lunch would get cut down from one hour to half an hour until the guilty party was ratted out. The day continues as normal until the last two hours of the shift; Mitch had directed an angry customer at Brock, who yelled at the VIP customer thinking it was Mitch. Mitch retaliated by quitting right after the phone call was finished, citing harassment in the workplace once Brock made it clear leaving would not be easy. Mitch turns to leave, her stuff already packed, as Brock rushes the rest of the employees to get back to work because their lunch break ended 7 minutes ago. The go back to work, put on their headsets, and listen for the next caller’s “beep.”


Acute tension: office problems, specifically dealing with the bureaucracy of the call center.

Chronic tension: no one knows what to stand up for/ what to do with their lives


A couple unconventional things drew me to this story. First of all, it starts off with a three-paragraph internal monologue, rather than being in scene. We’re thrown into this new story with new characters and new plot, which already can be pretty confusing, but Diaz takes it one step further with throwing us into the speaker’s mind, as well. Usually, when I see this attempted, the author cannot pull it off- before reading a story, I  weigh the amount of attention and energy I will have to put into the piece in order to semi-decipher what is going on, and will end up picking a different piece if getting “into” the story resembles any sort of maze, and I’m kind of sure the majority of readers to the same- but Diaz’s mastery of “weaving” drew me in.

So, what do I mean by this “weaving” thing? “Stress Management” has a perfect ratio of exposition to plot, which is commonly intertwined in the same paragraph, constantly giving us real-time updates as to what is physically, plot-wise going on in the piece; but also what is being set up to occur behind the piece. In other words, the chronic and acute tension are spatially woven together to the point where it all feels like one mega-system. I recognize that this concept of fluidity is a basic idea in writing, but honestly, I have a hard time reading stories where both tensions seem to flow into and complement each other; this piece stood out to me with the ease that it is accomplished. I believe it is because the theme it itself explores deals with the concept of “weaving,” so the piece’s physical form of weaving the two conflicts into same paragraphs and sentences is elevated in effectiveness when it works to emphasize the topic it speaks about.

So what about this “topic” I speak of? In my highlights, I tracked mentions of American customs/ideas, Philippine customs/ideas, and the meeting point between these two topics, most commonly in the form of an interaction. (Before we proceed, disclaimer: I’m latina, not in any way Filipina, so apologies to the 103.3 million people I may be insulting if I get a cultural aspect wrong; no harm or misrepresentation was in any way meant. Now continuing.) The very first example of this happens a mere 1/3 of the page in, with our first observance of the Filipinx, unnamed main character.

 ‘Thank you for calling US-Tel Consumer Services. My name is– ’

‘Hello?’ the American on the line would say, already outraged.

Already, we have a clear we vs they; phone operators are usually not the most respected, stuck dealing with cranky and usually self-entitled customers. The employees must shut their mouths and stick to reading a script which consists of mostly

…thank(ing) our callers for calling us, introduc(ing) ourselves with made-up names and convey(ing) a most ardent desire to help them, in all the ways we could, and more.

The phone operators in the story also seem to mostly be primarily from the Philippines. On the other hand, the Americans in the piece never seem to have to filter themselves. They are the ones in positions of power, whether they’re the customers or the direct supervisors. Additionally, the Philippine culture originally appears to be the one suffering the most “damage” from the phone operating job; it is revealed the main character and their coworkers must

…step[] into the shower just as the chicken adobo for dinner had started to settle in our stomachs, leaving the house as the parade of primetime telenovelas began…

A side-effect of this job is their being deprived of the intimate aspects of their culture. As the piece evolves, however, so do the freedoms of the Filipinx characters. The coworkers go out for tapsilog and sisig rather than eat at McDonald’s, for example, a change they gladly welcome. Even with all this, however, there seems to be one place the main character can never go: the courtyard dubbed the Lung Centre where Americans, British, Canadians, or Aussies hang out. Eventually, at the point in the plot where the staff’s lunch time gets shortened from an hour to 30 minutes, some of the staff suggest a protest of sorts. The only person to ultimately rebel is Mitch, earlier described as someone who would “cozy up” to those who’d hang out at the Lung Centre, as well as portrayed as a disgrace to Filipinos everywhere as she stumbles through the market.

Through this, Mitch represents the ultimate intermediary between the cultures; she is the weaving of America with the Philippines personified. Once this is taken into account, it is not surprising to note that although Mitch is not the narrator, she is the main character, having gone through the greatest character change than anyone else. Paralleling Jasmine’s, a Hawaiian (never specified if Native Hawaiian or Hawaiian), victory at American Idol reaffirms that yes, Polynesian culture is a prevailing part of the US. As Jasmine reaffirmed the audience’s view of Hawaii as being a part of the US, or the “American” part of American Idol, Mitch’s actions of standing up for the lessened lunch break and taking back power places her on a rank with that of Americans like the company’s customers and her supervisor, thus distinguishing her once and for all from the lower-power positions of her fellow Filipinx immigrants.


Writing assignment:

First, flush out a character. What would be their go-to poem? Favorite comfort food? Are they a cat person, dog person, or allergic to both? Second, pick an injustice/important issue you would like to convey in a piece. Now combine the two- the injustice should not define your created character, but instead serve as the character’s motivation to perform a specific action.



What did y’all think of the irony of everyone smoking in the Lung Centre?

Were the employees right in not protesting the cut lunch time? This came as a consequence of other things being done apart from answering phone calls; do y’all sympathize more with the phone operators, or the company and their loss of money?

The stress management PowerPoint/lecture itself is only a small portion of the piece; what did y’all think of its use as a title?

Was this a single-read story to most of you, or did it take a few reads to fully understand/capture everything? What elements made it a single or multiple-read piece?

“Puppy” Write Up by Elise, Adele, and Emma H

Summary of “Puppy” by George Saunders, Part 1: Elise

Marie is the mother of two kids, Abbie and Josh. She treats them with love, possibly so much so that they’re spoiled- not that she’ll admit it. With a “Family Plan” in mind, she packs her two kids into her car. While driving past cornfields that remind her of a mythical “haunted house,” she thinks about her children and all she’s done for them and, more importantly, how she’s a much better and cheerier mother than her own mom was. She’s going to pick up a puppy for the kids, to teach them responsibility.

Meanwhile, Callie awaits their arrival while priding herself on the care of her child, Bo. Bo is a hyper child whose medication makes him cranky, so she’s fixed him up in the backyard so that he won’t escape and get himself killed. She assures herself that she’ll let him run free when he gets older.

Summary Part 2

The narrator remembers a time when Bo didn’t take his medication. It leads her to think about how she didn’t need to put too much focus on Bo. It gave the narrator/mom the opportunity to think more about the puppy. She talks about where the puppy came from and how the kids are taking care it, compared to all the other pets. She also, while thinking about the puppy, had to think about getting rid of the puppy. Then, the memory jumps to when Abbie saw the puppy and wanted it. Abbie tried to get her mom to agree to keeping the puppy. Then, the memory shifts to the mom talking about something that happened in her mother’s closet. The memory was forced to the front of her mind after seeing a boy running down the street.

Marie decides to not buy the puppy from Callie, the woman who has it, after finding her house in such a state of disarray and seeing who I assume is Callie’s deranged son, Bo, tied up in the yard.  Abbie is upset because she had really wanted the dog, but Josh knows why they aren’t taking it, after seeing Bo as well, and says something to Abbie to calm her down. Callie tries to convince them to take the dog, but Marie refuses, not wanting to be part of the situation. She longs to tell Bo with a look that his life may not always be like this, it can become wonderful, just like hers had. But she dismisses this thought, thinking it nonsense that people share words through looks, and what isn’t nonsense would be to call someone in Child Welfare who would come and take Bo away from Callie.

Summary Part 3

The point of view changes and Callie calls out to Bo that she will be back soon and disappears into the cornfield. She sets the puppy down in the middle of the cornfield, and leaves it there to die, so that Jimmy, who I assume is her partner, won’t have to kill it, which upsets him and the children. She decides to tell Jimmy that Marie had bought the puppy and give him money of her own to trick him into believing it. She refuses to think of the dog on her walk home, and instead thinks about how her life will be when things become easier moneywise. She wants to go to school and buy decent shoes, so she can become slimmer, even though she knows she’ll never be completely skinny. Which to Callie is fine because Jimmy likes her the way that she is, and she feels the same about him. Which to Callie is what love is. Loving someone for the way they are and helping them improve. Like with Bo, who Callie loves, despite his lesser qualities.

Elise’s Analysis

I find this story to be effective and fun to read due to a large amount of sensory details and scene, as well as how both mothers show their love to their children – they do say- or rather think- this outright, but it is first described very well with the actions and decisions Marie and Callie make.

The story is divided into four parts- the first is Marie’s point of view, the second is Callie’s, and then it repeats again after they meet. Marie is a mother trying to do for her kids what her mother never did to her. She uses the cornfields she drives past as a base for “fond” memories as she thinks back to how she bought a game for her son and stayed up all night reading the manual so that she could better talk to him, and how they got all these different pets for the kids. And she compares this to how her mom left her in a blizzard for two hours, and how she locked her in a closet “while entertaining a literal ditchdigger in the parlor” (Saunders, 3).

Meanwhile, Callie has a different experience with her own kid, Bo. She clearly loves him very much, despite his hyperactivity (possibly ADHD, though the story doesn’t specify so it’s hard to tell). But she keeps him locked up in the backyard, tethered to a tree. However, she doesn’t seem to do this because she “hates” him. She truly believes that this is for his own good.

This idea of making this person’s villainous act something that could be argued to be done out of love is something I wish to learn to incorporate into my stories. You know what she’s doing is wrong, but, at the same time, you know she loves her son. She doesn’t make him take his medication, because

The meds made him grind his teeth and his fist would suddenly pound down. He’d broken plates that way, and once a glass tabletop and got four stitches in his wrist (Saunders, 4-5).

She doesn’t want her son angry all the time, she doesn’t want him to get hurt. And she does give him the medicine when he needs it. She’s just certain that he doesn’t need it today.

One may argue that she needs some sort of medication just as much as Bo; she’s not being rational. But either way, there’s a sort of ambiguity about her. You don’t exactly chastise Marie for calling CPS, but you know that Callie doesn’t feel the same way about her son as Marie’s mother did about her. Or perhaps, Marie’s mother loved her just as much, and we simply don’t see that because we’re seeing Marie’s side of the story. Perhaps, if we were given Bo’s perspective, we would feel the same about Callie. “When I was little,” Bo would say, “my mom chained me to a tree in the backyard.” And we would pity him and despise his mother. Perhaps this whole story is simply a view on perspective, and how children view their parents in a different light than how parents view themselves.

To connect this to a personal matter, I despise my mom. She always talked about how I was so smart and talented- and she still does. But I don’t believe her anymore, because deep down, I say “well, if I was so smart and great and you loved me so much, why didn’t you care enough to feed us and not let us get lost on the edge of town?” And I know that this isn’t fair. I don’t know much about my mom- I didn’t learn until recently that she was on medication for some sort of mental disorder (and I don’t even know what it is, because how do you ask your mom about her mental health?) even before moving in with my dad. And I guess it isn’t really her fault.

But I bet she tells the story much differently anyways. She already tells me that I don’t know what happened. Once we had to eat graham crackers for dinner. We always had to make our own dinner, and I think we were out of macaroni and cheese. And I mentioned this at some point to her or my stepmom or somebody. And my mom told me that she let us eat crackers for dinner because she thought it was cute.

And of course, that’s bull, but the whole purpose of this was to provide an example. I remember that time in my life much differently than my mother does. But it doesn’t matter, because everything’s already over. She has two more kids, she never bothers to visit, and I only see her when we happen to visit her mother’s house.


  1. How does Marie relate the child chained to the tree to her own experiences as a child? Do you think she saw her own mother in Callie?
  2. Is Callie truly a bad guy, or does she love her son, and simply not know what to do for him?

Adele’s Analysis 

The conflict of the story was giving the puppy away. The narrator didn’t know if the person she was giving the puppy away to would even come. And with that she also didn’t know if she even wanted to give the puppy away. Hence why the line

Now all she had to worry about was the pup.

This line first introduces the story’s conflict. The children all want to keep the puppy. One of the children specifically says that she would care for the puppy completely.

The setting of the story was constantly changing because she kept thinking of her memories and previous experiences. The main setting of the story was the cornfield, where the mother was remembering each and everything.

The story kept me interested to see what would happen next by continuously switching from memory to memory. I, as a reader, was incredibly curious to see where the story would go next. What was going to happen to the puppy?

I did get very confused about the story at a lot of times because of the jumps in time, but as a whole, I enjoyed that the story was constantly trying to keep you interested by leaping around. It completely depends on the reader and their interpretation.

One important key note about the story that I might take into my own writing is the series of flashbacks. “PUPPY” had a lot of memories that were placed into the story in a way that they formed the story. The story also is mainly the thoughts of the mother/narrator. Their thoughts and memories are what form the story and what form the plot. Her fears of getting rid of the puppy make it so that the reader has something to be interested in. Less complicated plots or incidents makes the story more relatable and less like a soap opera.

  1. Why would the writer choose to make the majority of the story entirely flashbacks?

  2. What are some ways that this piece can relate to the average person?

  3. Do you think the writer expressed the point they wanted to express in this story?

Emma H’s Analysis

What I can learn from this story about writing and how to write my own stories is how to incorporate memories and flashbacks into a story, so they fit into the plot properly and relevantly in a way that furthers the storyline and helps the reader understand the stories characters better. In the story Puppy, the mother Marie talks constantly about her children, and about her family life. She believes that she isn’t spoiling her children but instead loving them, as she had never been loved. She relates experience that she has had with her family and ones that she had with her parents and you can very easily see why she protects and loves her children the way she does. You understand her pain and shock at seeing that child tied up in the yard and feel her being launched into her own childhood, where she too had been locked up and neglected. So, while you can understand the reason that the Author had included these memories of her childhood, memories can become deeper things, more than just background for a character. Without the memories in the story Puppy, the reader would just assume that Marie had been disturbed at the state of Callie’s home and Bo, who is tied up in the yard. Readers could have been confused as to why Callie left it in the cornfield to die and why Marie didn’t take the dog in the first place, for isn’t our instinctual reaction to something small and defenseless in a toxic situation to immediately take it away from that place? With these memories, one understands why Marie “was not going to contribute to a situation like this in even the smallest way.” The dog would have reminded her of her past home life, of a time when she was incredibly unhappy. And Callie had to leave the dog out in the cornfield to die or else her partner Jimmy would have to drown it, something that brings him great displeasure, because the animal was an extra that they didn’t need. Memories are better way to introduce information without just putting it out there for the reader find, no work involved. This way the text doesn’t become dull to the person reading.

As for plot, I learned that it’s alright to not always have a happy ending. In almost every story you read there’s some sort of conflict or sadness sprinkled in, but most stories end on a happy or at least optimistic note. Good plot should always have some sort of tragedy, but rarely do stories end with it. Callie must leave the puppy to die, Abbie doesn’t get the dog she wanted, Marie is still haunted by her past, and Bo is still chained up in the yard. It’s important that we as Authors realize tragedy in our stories because it’s just as, if not more present in our society, but isn’t as recognized.


How can an author use memories to further a story?

Do you think what Callie did was justifyed?

A Whole New Meaning to Self Care: On Kaj Tanaka’s “My Younger Self”

A presentation by Angelica Atkins

Summary: In Kaj Tanaka’s “My Younger Self,” the older self (OS) tells us that his younger self (YS) cleans the house when he feels like it, and then the two get drunk to celebrate and trash the house again. The older self takes care of the younger self through washing the dishes. The older self is ashamed of the younger self, but the younger self looks up to the older. The OS enrolls the YS in Tae Kwon Do, but the YS gets too cocky and annoying so the OS stops it. Next, the OS enrolls the YS in community college. The OS tells the YS that if he’d stayed in school, he’d be making more money; the YS tells the OS he likes him the way he is, and they both get drunk. The OS is disturbed by his younger self and so drinks for the next week. That Saturday, the YS has had 5 beers and the OS cautions him against drinking so heavily, for the OS’s sake. The YS doesn’t listen, but the OS understands. The community college doesn’t work, which the OS understands. The YS stays home and smokes weed and drinks and sometimes goes out. Next, the OS orders books from Amazon.com, hoping to get his YS interested in business, which is what he’s interested in. His YS doesn’t like any of them. The YS still stays around the house, and the OS can tell that the YS “feels superior” to him. He then tells the YS that he will become the OS in a few years. The OS is laid off from his job for not showing up, and the YS says it’ll be fine. The OS asks him, since that is his future self, whether he likes what he sees. The YS says he used to, but doesn’t anymore. The OS thinks of murdering his YS at night, but loses the energy. The YS finally has an idea: marry a rich white woman and all the financial problems will be solved. The OS grudgingly goes along with this idea. Going to expensive places, the YS burns through all the OS’s money and savings quickly. The YS wants to go back to Tae Kwon Do, while the older one wants to be an accountant. The YS then leaves, taking all of the OS’s credit cards and emptying all his bank accounts. The OS is left with nothing, except the certainty that the YS will become him soon. The OS lives each day out of spite.

Acute and Chronic: Chronic tension is the Older Self wanting to fix himself, Acute is the Younger Self’s growing resentment and departure from the Older Self.

Highlights: Remember whenever a well-meaning teacher is like “if you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?” and then you realize that your younger self would probably ignore what you say anyway? Well, that’s pretty much this story in a nutshell. I loved reading it. I mean, like, you hate yourself, but then you also hate your younger self (or at least this older self does). But what if you could actively interact with each other? I’ll now focus on what I took as the chronic tension: the older self hating the younger self and trying to ‘fix’ him. It’s first shown when the older self says

I put my younger self on an exercise regimen to offset all the beer he drinks. He knows it is for his own good. I enroll him in Tae Kwon Do because I always wanted to be a black belt.

Here, the older self is projecting his own aspirations onto his younger self. The older self isn’t quite fixing the younger self yet, but making him better and fulfilling the older self’s dreams. The effects of this are explained later, when the older self says that

With any luck he will get laid more than I did, and then I will have those memories later on.

So if the younger self learns a skill or has a memorable experience, ultimately the older self will benefit without having done any of the work at present. Though he doesn’t see it, the older self and younger self are the same in the respect that they don’t want to do any work to better themselves, though the older self’s only ways of fixing himself are through suggesting activities to the younger self. The irony is strong here. The pattern of the older self suggesting things to the younger self and the younger self resisting continues through tae kwon do, community college, and amazon books. But here is where the older self fails. He loses his job, and his standing in the younger self’s eyes. Now he has to give way to the younger self’s attempt at bettering himself, which ends in disaster. The older self’s self-hatred led to an interesting train of thought for me: if you had this easy way to better yourself, would you? By convincing your younger self to do (anything), you are changing your own future.

The other thing I highlighted was the older self understanding the younger self, which adds to the cyclical tone of the piece. The older self hates himself, but at the same time, understands where his younger self is coming from because he used to be his younger self. This understanding allows the younger self to get the better of the older self, since the older self thinks he understands the younger self’s actions because he used to be the younger self. But here is where the disconnect happens: the younger and the older self have become different, because the older self has made all these mistakes. The younger self knows that the older self lost his job and is a failure, and now his desire is not to end up that way.

What I could use for my own writing: The concept for this story is what drew me. Making self-hatred into an active trait, a why for what someone does, was something I hadn’t seen done that often. I want to incorporate what could be seen as passive traits into active ones.

Writing prompt: Create an element in your story that is technically impossible but not explained. It should be a central element of the plot.


Is the older self right to guide his younger self?

Was the younger self right to leave?

Could the older self change his own future?


“Three Hermits” Write Up by Edward Clarke

Three Hermits” by Leo Tolstoy begins with a brief description of the setting. A bishop is sailing towards a monastery on a ship laden with merchants, fishermen, and pilgrims, also headed toward that monastery. The journey has been calm and a fisherman is telling several others of an island close by on which three hermits live destitute, having dedicated their lives to God. He asks the captain of the ship to change course, so he may go see these hermits and because he is a bishop, the captain obliges. Upon arriving on the island, the bishop meets three men, all scantily dressed and living in a mud hut; one older, one younger, and one taller. He learns that, while they fiercely pray, they know little of any Biblical canon and teaches them the Lord’s Prayer, which they find very difficult. They practice this prayer until night falls and the younger one has the entirety of the prayer memorized. Then, the Bishop returns to the boat and the pilgrims go to sleep. However, the Bishop soon sees the three hermits gliding across the water faster than the boat, and the pilgrims awake and crowd close to the Bishop. Once the hermits have come close to the ship, they tell the Bishop that they have totally forgotten the prayer he taught, and they beg him to teach it again. The bishop bows low to the hermits and tells them their own prayer will do, and so the hermits leave back across the ocean.

This is objectively the best short story ever written. Oceans, bishops, and hermits are the holy trinity when it comes to fiction writing, and Tolstoy utilized each effectively and adeptly in this piece, to convey his own religious views. In terms of my highlights, I focused on Christian themes and overtly tranquil language. I shall begin with Christianity. The biblical allusions and illustrations pepper the piece thoroughly, appearing in every aspect of the story, from the characters to the dialogue and the minute descriptions. The hermits are, of course, a representation of the biblical three-face God; the eldest, angriest hermit who wears the cassock being the wrathful old testament God, the younger, kinder hermit in peasant clothes being new-testament Jesus, and the one with the white beard and white eyebrows reminiscent of a spectral cloth is the holy ghost. Tolstoy says this story is a popular folk tale from the Volga region of Russia, but the story fits his own religious beliefs a too much for me to totally believe this. Tolstoy’s ideologies were incredibly controversial in his time, drawing from Quaker and asceticism, rejecting both the church and the state as a purveyor of divine truth, instead believing that all true piousness belonged solely to the poor, especially those who were poor by choice, as the hermits of the story were. He believed that God was omnipresent, existing in the surroundings of every-day life, and the diction of the story reflected that belief, with lines such as “his face is as bright as an angel’s from heaven”, serving to illustrate this belief. After his death, the Tolstoy Bible was published, a collection of passages that shaped Tolstoy’s ideologies and his writings influenced such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Henry David Thoreau. I believe it is these strong beliefs that simmer just beneath the surface of this piece that make it so fascinating, though the curious plot of miraculous hermits is what keeps the reader reading.

The stark tranquility also serves to further Tolstoy’s idea of salvation; the divinity lies with those who shirk wealth, and with this divinity comes utter peace. This, too, is evident through the diction of the piece, even in the midst of the strange and surreal climax of the story. When the bishop sees “the three hermits running upon the water, all gleaming white, their grey beards shining, and approaching the ship as quickly as though it were not morning”, he registers little shock, while the helmsmen, who believed the hermits to be false and inexistent just that morning, is terrified. The calmness reverberates similarly through the landscape of the piece, focusing primarily upon the ocean, which is often in the bible related with  God for its power and grace. In Psalms 89:9, Ethan the Ezrahite states to God that, “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them”. In the story, there are no waves, no storms, no fickle oceanic winds, for God has already stilled the sea for the Christians on the boat, as well as the hermits. Throughout the piece, the sea is described as, “rippling in the moonlight” or the gentle rays of sun. In the eyes of Tolstoy, this ever-present tranquility comes hand-in-hand with God and peaceful faith, both of which are blatantly evident to the reader in this story and allows it to function as both a story and an ars poetica.

The Chronic and Acute tensions in this piece are, respectively, the Bishop’s belief in his own religious superiority, and his discovery of the miraculous hermits and I want to try to write a story like this one, where the tensions, while present, are simply not as important as the ideals and the plot. My writing exercise is to isolate one’s core belief system and write a story in which you feel these beliefs are encapsulated, though not explicitly stated.


  1. Because this piece is so different from contemporary short stories, did you see it more as a folk tale? Is there a difference?
  2. Has the piece aged well? Or does it feel outdated and archaic?
  3. Do you feel Tolstoy’s message was too heavy-handed?

“Gravedigging” Write Up by Rylan, Ella, and Carson

Summary part 1: Ella
“Gravedigging” by Sarah Goldman starts off with May, a nineteen year old girl who died in an accident, just three weeks before her 20th birthday. Her friend, Clarissa, is heartbroken from this, so she decides to resurrect May with necromancy. Clarissa has always been a strong advocate for magic; ever since she was little, she would conduct spells on animals, keeping them alive by tethering their lives ( in the form of crystals) on a bracelet. Once awake, May is startled and surprised at what Clarissa has done. Necromancy is illegal, making the duo on the run from the police. Dawn breaks just as they finish making the grave look untouched, and they soon head to a 24-hour diner in hopes to obtain some food. In this scene, Clarissa experiences minor drainage from the spell, showing that she is growing weaker and weaker as a side effect of bringing May back from the dead.

Summary part 2: Carson
They then book a motel and May learns from the tv that people are starting to realize she’s been resurrected. Upon this May goes back to her dads to get supplies and a necromancy book she bought for Clarissa. She and her dad run into each other and her dad is upset with Clarissa and her necromancy.

Summary part 3: Rylan
After entering her childhood home under the assumption that her father is not home, May begins to regret going to get this book. May goes to the living room to find the spell book that was going to be her gift to Clarissa before she died because she hoped it had a solution to her sickness. Then she heard a clang from the kitchen. Her father went to the linen closet which was in the living room where May was. May was found out and they stare at each other until her father breaks the silence. Her father then talks about how he knew Clarissa was a bad influence, and May insists she isn’t. They say they miss each other, and he lets her leave freely with the book. When she arrives back at the hotel, Clarissa is still sleep, and her condition looks much worse. May wakes up Clarissa and tries to tell her how this is all not worth her health; but, Clarissa says she couldn’t have done nothing. Clarissa explains her plan for them to catch a train and live on the run until it dies down. They kiss and hug until Clarissa falls asleep, then May contemplates if it was all worth it. May then proceeds to take her stone off Clarissa’s wrist, she sets out money, hair dye, clothes, and train tickets. She discovers that to undo the spell and make Clarissa better, she must smash her stone and die. May thought about her father, and how this was the best thing to do for Clarissa although she wouldn’t like it. She smiled, presumably at the thought of making Clarissa better, and crushed the amethyst with a crowbar. And the first person narrative ends at that point.

Analysis part 1: Ella
In Gravedigging, I learned a lot of useful information for writing my own stories. I related to Sara Goldman’s work because of its tendency to be somewhat dark,  humorous at times, and non-fictional. Her imagery really inspired me to do more visuals in my work, but at the same time try and not to make everything sensual details. I think she evenly balanced the plot with enough sensory attributes where the reader could get a good grip of what’s happening throughout the short story. 

She looked like she’d been run over by a truck a few times: dark circles, greasy hair, unwashed skin. Clarissa always tried to look as put together as people expected her to be.

In addition to her great use of visual elements, Goldman also did a fantastic job with her characters. I could almost see what they were seeing, feel what they were feeling, and so forth. Whenever a new character was introduced, such as her dad, the man at the necromancy protest, or even the ice cream worker, I visualized them so intricately and intensely that it felt like I was almost right there with them. I especially liked the diner scene when she was describing what how they (Clarissa and May) looked out of the ordinary.

I was wearing what I thought of as my synagogue dress, complete with pearls around my neck, but also a beanie I’d pulled from Clarissa’s bag. Clarissa was dressed like she expected to be going gravedigging, in baggy jeans and boots, her hair pulled back into a bun. She still looked like she was about to pass out at any moment. It was obvious she had been crying.

Not only were these two components appealing to me, but I kept on wanting to read more. Her work was addicting right off the bat, and I didnt want to stop at any moment throughout the whole thing. It sucked me in by the first line, and the drama kept getting more intense as I continued to read. It was emotional, raw, and really encouraged me to do my best when writing a piece similar to this.

Lastly, I wanted to touch up on her use of settings. The same setting for too long usually makes me antsy or bored, but Goldman’s use of backgrounds was very diverse. It shifted at least once every few pages, enabling me to stay alert when reading the different scenarios that Clarissa and May got into. The cemetery, the diner, both motels, and the ice cream shop all gave me a very fatigued feeling, like as if someone had put a sleep-inducing, dream-like film over the whole story. The scene where both of them are laying down in bed gave me a very drowsy and melancholy feeling, like as if this was the last time they would ever see each other again (and it was, oddly enough).

She didn’t say anything. I tipped my head back to stare at the ceiling. “I can’t believe you,”I said thickly. “I don’t want you to die for me.”

I was very heartbroken by the end, and I felt this wave of sadness rush over me once I had finished reading about these two characters.

Maybe it had all been worth it, for the chance to have this with Clarissa.

For something to invoke such a strong emotion in such a small amount of time (to me) is the sign of a very powerful writer. She conveyed what she wanted to say effortlessly, exposing a new side of literature that is very hard to accomplish. At no point in time when I was reading her work was I discontent, confused, or frustrated in any way. It had smooth flashback transitions, great usage of character emotion, and a general aura that I was very fond of.

In conclusion, Gravedigging was a great story, and I absolutely loved reading it. I got a lot of useful information out of it, such as how to draw the reader in, the amount of details I should use, and how to describe my characters and their backgrounds. She also gave me a few good things to use when I’m trying to transition into a flashback, not to mention the correct way a Freytag pyramid should be used. In the end, I have a great appreciation for her work, and I hope that one day I can achieve to write something that touches others as much as this piece touched me.

Analysis part 2: Carson
Craft element number one:

Clarissa wore that little piece of playground gravel she’d used for the spell on a chain around her wrist. She kept adding to the chain, too.

This is great foreshadowing because it sets the stage for the conclusion. This paragraph alludes to how May will break free and return to her grave if she subtracted to her bracelet, smashing the crystal that holds her life. To explain further, the way Clarissa resurrects something is by holding its life in a crystal, which she will then wear around her wrist. So if she wanted something to return to death she could smash the crystal and release their soul. Also the fact that she must have it on her at all times could be why she wears a bracelet. It was made clear that May needed to die or else Clarissa would slowly fade away. This is because Clarissa is not powerful enough to share energy with another human, something far more complex than a guinea pig.

Craft element number two, show don’t tell: this story had a really good show don’t tell message throughout the story but I’m going to explain how the author showed us that Clarissa was get more and more sick. It starts off in the diner when May thinks that,

Clarissa looked like she was about to fall over again.

Which escalates into Clarissa being tired and limp throughout the day and then at one point has a horrible nose bleed. All of these examples show the reader that Clarissa is getting worse the longer May is alive and living off her, which could then escalate in to Clarissa dying. Of course this sets the stage for the conclusion where May kills herself by smashing the rock that had her soul in it. Another example of the author showing us Clarissa is sick is right here,

She was shaking a little, even in her sleep, and her skin was so pale you’d think she was the dead one.

obviously the author wants us to know that Clarissa was not ok and would die without directly saying it. All in all, a great piece for show don’t tell example.

How do you go about foreshadowing? Do you make it obvious or slight like this short story?

Do you think this is a good example of show don’t tell?

Analysis part 3: Rylan
“Gravedigging” is a story about the bonds between two people, and like the original epic Gilgamesh how we cope with the loss of our loved ones. Clarissa had a power that society forbade her for using, but she had to use it to bring May back to life even if it meant altering the course of the rest of her life. She felt a strong sense of guilt for being the fault of May’s death. She even says,

“And you did anyway, and it was because of me. You can’t expect me to just let that happen, not when I could—what’s the point of all this, of all this shit I can do, if I couldn’t help you? What was I supposed to do?” 

The symbolism between the stones and the life of our character is very evident. A part that stood out to me was when the sickly Clarissa put her arm onto May, and May said that she didn’t move her arm because it was warm. Although, that is the opposite of what we would think considering that Clarissa is pale, sickly, and on the brink of death, but earlier in the text we discover the rocks glow and are warm. We later discover that May’s rock is piping hot, and that was probably what was making Clarissa warm.

May’s encounter with her father is the climax, and most significant point in the story because to May that encounter leads to her coming to terms with leaving her life behind. This propels the plot to May thinking about how either way her life is never going to be the same. One way, she’ll always be on the run and the girl that she loves will die and she will be alone. Or, she can allow the world to go on without her, and the girl she loves will get a shot at life again. This encounter leads to a lot of introspective thinking, although she wouldn’t necessarily have anyone to talk to anyways because Clarissa is dying, and there is a nationwide hunt for her.

May and her father speaking is ultimately what leads her to sacrificing herself for Clarissa and giving us a solid emotional resolution to our story. The only conflict that is not resolved, is the conflict between Clarissa and May themselves.

Clarissa hated being told she couldn’t do something—the fact that I was here at all was proof of that. Sometimes, she just needed someone to stop her, if she wouldn’t stop herself.

I am not necessarily sure, Clarissa could be done with May. May just brought Clarissa this grimoire probably filled with a more affective spell for raising the dead because we know that the spell used on May is essentially just an amped up version of the same spell she used to use in grade school to bring her class pet back to life. That may have been a little naïve on May’s part.

I would say that May thought of this and secretly wishes to be brought back, she says,

I’d tried to do want what she wanted this time. I couldn’t. I didn’t want this.

This could be hinting that she doesn’t want to be dead necessarily, but she wants Clarissa to be alive more.

The main thing to take away from this story is the artistic form expressed via symbolism, one thing relates to another and so forth. The web of ideas, and characters expressed all within one another. And the somewhat hidden political ideas about tolerance of other cultures and differences between people are instead expressed in magic. Which gives the reader the chance to enter this text with an unprejudiced mind and see our world from the outside looking in is amazing, and a new writing technique that /I am hopeful to explore in the future.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you had the ability to bring back something you love, but it would negatively affect the rest of your life how would you handle the situation?
  2. If you committed a grievous crime, would you avoid your parents for fear of them turning you in?
  3. Do you believe that May made the right choice, considering that Clarissa could have been caught anyway, and Clarissa obviously did not want May to sacrifice her life for hers? Why/Why not?
  4. *In your opinion, is Clarissa responsible for May’s death, and would her dying for May have been just? Why/ Why not?

“Eight Bites” Write Up by Seven Liu

Eight Bites” by Carmen Maria Machado follows an insecure woman who undergoes bariatric surgery. All three of her sisters have also undergone this surgery, and she is ecstatic to join them, much to the disapproval of her daughter Cal. The narrator blames Cal for her body, and their relationship is uneasy and stunted throughout the story. The narrator’s own mother was slender, and practiced a disordered habit of only eating eight bites of food in a meal. After the surgery, the narrator follows in her footsteps. After her “old body” vanishes, an entity begins to slink its way into her life and follow her up until her death, when it embraces her and takes her away.

The chronic tension of this story is the narrator’s relationship with her body, the acute tension is the surgery/arrival of the entity.

Something this story exemplifies is the use of a fantastical metaphor to reveal meaning rooted in reality. The obvious controlling metaphor of the entity drives the story, and signifies the narrator’s previous body. I personally think it also represents her daughter’s body, and every woman’s body in the world throughout time. This is explicitly implied here:

She will outlive my daughter, and my daughter’s daughter, and the earth will teem with her and her kind, their inscrutable forms and unknowable destinies.

The entity is described almost in childlike terms, signifying the narrator’s role as a mother, to her daughter Cal, and to her own body – both of which she has neglected. To me, the entity is a physical manifestation of the link between the narrator’s own body and her daughter’s, her resentment of both. When the narrator lashes out, beating the entity into submission, she is not only paralleling her surgery (beating her body into submission), but revealing her resentment towards her daughter for “ruining” her body. The sisters have their own entities, of far different natures. The multiplicity of the entities implies that they are universal to women, and serve different purposes. The entity, or the female body, exists in this story as a kind of contrite ghost, haunting the narrator with its plea for acceptance, forgiveness, care. When the narrator dies, the entity reveals itself as something like an angel, embracing the narrator. The narrator apologizes to the entity, reversing their roles. It is no longer the entity begging the narrator for forgiveness, leaving offerings and hiding beneath the floorboards, but the narrator recognizing her failure as a caretaker. The entity forgives her, because it is her body and it will never forsake her. The entity will outlive her, the narrator claims, and the earth will be overrun with the neglected bodies of women everywhere, their neglect immortalizing them. By neglecting them, we have removed them from their destinies, leaving them to wander forever. I believe this might represent the ideals we pass onto our children, our hatred for our bodies seeps its way into our children’s minds, and will manifest long after we are gone. This controlling metaphor is artfully crafted and I applaud Machado, it serves the story well and never feels contrived. Machado recognizes that the female body is a kind of haunting, and her driving metaphor exemplifies this idea and articulates it elegantly.

In addition, this story is wrought with metaphors involving food. Food plays an important role in the story regardless, as it is a constant source of conflict for the narrator, making its purpose as a metaphor even more compelling given the context. Food begins as a representation of the narrator’s failures, then of her successes. Food is also frequently used to represent the narrator’s body, the foods most frequently associated with her body are oysters and fruit. Post-surgery, the narrator describes taking a grapefruit apart with her hands, paralleling the description of her surgery.

I try and take a grapefruit apart with my hands, but it’s an impossible task. The skin clings to the fruit, and between them is an intermediary skin, thick and impossible to separate from the meat.

Eventually I take a knife and lop off domes of rinds and cut the grapefruit into a cube before ripping it open with my fingers. It feels like I am dismantling a human heart.

Oysters are direct parallels to the entity that trails the narrator, as they too are just brainless muscle, nevertheless alive, and resisting the narrator. Food is a vital issue in the world, particularly with womanhood, the control and lack of control that comes with it, and its direct connection to the body. To control food is to control your body. You are what you eat, etc. The narrator becomes eight bites after the surgery, she becomes an ascetic, she becomes like her mother, iron-willed. She is the image of control she has so sought after. She awakes before her death hungry, because only at the end of her life she is allowed to be hungry. Machado recognizes food as “infused with everything else”, with language, womanhood, the body, relationships.

Something Machado does that I admire, and would like to implement in my own writing, is her use of the controlling metaphor. The line between realism and fantasy is permeable as the story progresses, as the controlling metaphor grows. However, the story never fully loses touch with reality; in fact the fantastical element of the controlling metaphor helps the reality of the story emerge. I would like to write metaphors like these, that use magic/fantasy/ghost stories, whatever you’d like to call it, to reveal meaning.

The writing exercise is to write a character who undergoes a change (physically or psychologically) whose previous self manifests physically and follows them throughout the story, and reveals a deeper nature to the change.


  1. What do you think the reoccuring white fox represents?
  2. What does the narrator mean by telling the entity “I didn’t know”?
  3. Do you think the narrator hates her daughter Cal (for taking her body away from her)? Is the entity not only a representation of her own body, but of her daughter’s?
  4. Do you think Machado’s writing style (lyrical/poetic) served as an effective vehicle for conveying the subject matter, or hindered it?