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The Fourth State of Matter

In: Other Topics

Submitted By mwest0907
Words 1017
Pages 5
Instructor
English 101
10 December 2014
Essay 2

Tragic
In the “Fourth State of Matter” by Joann Beard, Beard expresses the horrific event that she encountered at the University of Iowa, by using the symbols of her dog, the squirrels, and the plasma to help the readers interpret and understand the shooting and how it influences her life today. The symbols play a key role in Beard’s writing and the struggles she deals with every day of her life, but also helps her get her point across, as well as keep her audience engaged to connect the symbols in the shooting. We, as an audience, are first introduced to her dog. The dog is the one symbol that is continuous throughout the essay and symbolizes the shooting, and death of her friend Chris. As Beard states “The collie fell down the basement stairs. I don’t know if she was disoriented and was looking for me, or what. But when I was at work she used her long nose like a lever and got the door opened and tried to go down there, except her legs wouldn’t do it and she fell.” (Beard 23) This shows that the dog had no control over his body, just like there was absolutely no control in what Gang Lu was thinking during the shooting and there was not anyone or anything that could stop him. She explains, “Gang Lu stands up and leaves the room abruptly, goes down one floor to see if the department chairman Dwight is sitting in his office. He is.” (Beard 25) This shows that anger Gang Lu has and it leads up to what is about to happen. It shows that the dog is correlated with the shooting, the lever on the door that dog opened also represents the lever on the gun, the opening of the door represents Gang Lu’s action of opening door to the room to shoot Chris, and finally the dog falling down the stairs represents Chris falling over dead in his chair. Beard loves her dog so much just like she loves Chris, and once the dog dies it also symbolizes Chris’ death. Beard went to Chris for everything she trusted him and relied on him to help her when she needed just like the dog was by her side. Beard didn’t want to accept the fact that two most important influences in her life were gone. Beard knows that her dog as well as Chris are now together in heaven looking down on her. The squirrels also represent many issues during the story. Beard talks about the loud, and uninviting squirrels that live in the spare bedroom where all of belongings were quietly out of the way. The squirrels represent the shooting and as Beard states, “What I can’t take is the squirrels. The come alive at night, throwing terrific parties in the spare bedroom, making thumps and crashes.” (Beard 18) The day of the shooting, everyone was peacefully working, until Gang Lu walked in and released the first shot, then all hell broke lose. People were running around, screaming, not knowing what to do. The squirrels during the day are very peaceful, and then something triggers them to be disruptive. The shooting happened so fast, just as the squirrels destroy the upstairs so quickly, Beard didn’t know what hit her, and the impact it would have on her life. After the shooting happened Beard’s life was quiet, the troubled dog was gone, her friends were gone, as well as the squirrels causing ruckus upstairs. Although Beard’s everyday problems such as the sick dog and the squirrels were all gone, she can now return to peace once and for all.
Finally, the plasma is a continuous symbol that is brought together in the essay. The physic’s team was working with plasma, and how it made up the solar system. Plasma is also blood, which represents the blood of her friends and colleagues after they got shot. Plasma is all around us and everything going on in her life was connected and not getting better. In the quote “ We’re in the plasmapause, a place of equilibrium, where the forces of the earth meet the forces of the sun.” (Beard 29) represents that as her dog looks up to the sky when he died, he is now one with the plasma and her friends. With the death of her friends and her dog, she knows that everything is connected and they are all helping each other in heaven. The common tie that Beard had with her dog and colleagues, was damaged it was almost like her family was stripped away from her. The phrase “blood is thicker than water” doesn’t even apply in this case. Beard had a special place in her heart, for whomever was in her life, and knowing they are all together, creates comfort for her, and that she can return to her daily life, and know even though they are not on Earth they are all connected and still here in the plasmapause. Through the dog, squirrels and plasma, Beard expresses her problems but finds a peaceful way to accept what she lost and what she has to face, but “where the particles of dust stop spinning and hang motionless in deep space.” (Beard 28) Chris is gone, the squirrels are gone, and her dog, and her colleague are all there together making her be able to accept the hardships of losing everyone she loved. “I have to stand in the bathroom for a while and look at myself in the mirror. I’m still Jo Ann, white face and dark hair. I have earrings on, tiny wrenches that hang from wires.” (Beard 27) She is still herself but she now has to go on with her life, knowing everything she loves is gone. “I tell the white face in the mirror that Gang Lu did this, wrecked everything and murdered all those people. It seems as ludicrous as everything else.”(Beard 27)

Works Cited
Beard, Jo Ann. “The Fourth State of Matter.” First Year Composition Reader. 2013.

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