Free Essay

The Role of Compassion in Four Short Stories

In: English and Literature

Submitted By lisabell
Words 1362
Pages 6
All good relationships have a measure of compassion between the players. In these stories, the authors depend on compassion, and the lack of it, to enrich the lives of their characters.
Edward P. Jones wrote about a woman in his short story First Day who remembers with great detail her first day of school. The story only covers one day out of her life, but the moments of that day are laced with all the days prior, all the people in her life and all the events, real and imagined, that got her to that first day of school. That morning before school, the mother is doing her daughter’s hair. The simple act of doing her child’s hair is steeped with the anticipation and history they share, the continued hope of the mother for the child’s success, and the child’s new level of maturity. They struggle to get the hair perfect and eventually are satisfied with their efforts. As the mother and daughter walk into school, into the auditorium to register, the girl/narrator notices another young student. “The girl’s hair is arrayed in curls, but some of them are beginning to droop and this makes me happy.” The narrator’s mother is illiterate, hard working, and single for all practical purposes. Their lives are not perfect, and yet her hair is. The tender act of a mother helping her daughter prepare for school is a symbol of the teamwork that will make that child a success in school. It is not the failing curls of the other child that has made her happy, it is knowing that her mother took the time to make her hair perfect and that it has lasted the whole long morning as they prepare for registration. Jones shows his readers how complex spoken, and unspoken, exchanges are between characters.
Family members often need to act as teammates who work together to reach a goal, but in the short story Alibi Ike by¬¬¬¬ Ring Lardner, the teammates act as anything but team players. A new player joins the team and does quite well, bringing the team win after win. Ike is an odd character with some strange need to excuse himself for every thought and act, perhaps a psychological cover-up to diffuse the judgments of others. Ike’s teammates, unfortunately, do not act as team players; rather than support their friend and teammate, they manipulate and make fun of him. When their thoughtlessness has driven Ike’s fiancée out of the picture, Ike falls into a slump, and the team begins losing games. At this point, it might be obvious to thoughtful, compassionate people that Ike is hurting and his batting average is obviously a sign. True friends would want to help their teammate, would want to bolster his confidence to help him out of his slump. But Ike’s teammates are worried more about their share in the salary for winning teams. “It’s goin’ to beat us out o’ the big money.”(100) They immediately set upon a plan to bring the fiancée back so that Ike will get out of his slump and they will all earn more money. Money is a serious motivator; in this case, it motivated the team to support Ike, but real support, the meaningful kind, would have come from their hearts and they would have reached out to Ike and shown compassion for his predicament –especially because they had a hand in putting him in it.
By contrast, Isabel, Julie Orringer’s character, does have compassion. In her story The Isabel Fish, Isabel reaches into her heart to extend an invitation to Maddy. Isabel is dating Sage and they are headed with friends to a hottub. Maddy is Sage’s younger sister and is hence not invited, most definitely not by her brother. However Isabel is eager to right the wrong by overriding Sage. “I turned to go inside, and that was when Isabel said, ‘Hey Maddy, you can come if you want.’”(61) Isabel reaches out to Maddy because she is uncomfortable with how Sage is treating his sister; Isabel is empathetic and understands how Maddy feels to be so unincluded. Throughout the entire story, Sage shows great disdain for Maddy –even before the accident when Isabel drowns and both Sage and Maddy hold Maddy at least partially responsible. It is unclear if this is a case of severe sibling rivalry, but it is clear that Sage is a mean person with little compassion. Orringer shows the reader how Isabel’s compassion and Sage’s lack of it color Maddy’s world, as well as their own. It seems Isabel was a happier person, and got good feelings from doing good whereas Sage is an angry person who seeks subjects on whom he can blame and lodge his uncomfortable feelings. Maddy and Sage share a complex relationship and how they choose to act will determine the outcome of it.
Complexity is one of the characteristics that makes us human, our complex language and social connectivity. Charles Johnson has written a story, China, where one of two main characters seeks change in his life and the reaction to it reveals the true natures of these two complex individuals. Evelyn and Rudolph are a married couple. Their history together has been a quiet one due to Rudolph’s severe health restrictions. Evelyn was aware of the restrictions before they married and accepted a curtailed life with him. In fact, it seems she preferred a curtailed life because when Rudolph is suddenly inspired to get off the sofa, improve his life and risk his health to pursue a new interest in the martial arts, Evelyn shows real disdain for Rudolph. So threatened by Rudolph’s new hobby, she thinks: “He’s doing this to hurt me.”(372) She jabs at Rudolph about his class and reveals how feeling that she can no longer control him leaves her vulnerable. “’If they’re not gay, then maybe I should take lessons. It’s been good for you, right?’ Her voice grew sharp. ‘I mean, isn’t that what you’re saying? That you and your friends are better’n everybody else?’”(373) It would seem that within a married relationship, we would want what was best for our partner. Evelyn clearly does not want to see Rudolph change, grow, and self-improve. She is risking losing control, and uses mean and disdainful comments to try to contain the damage. When Rudolph refuses to engage at this petty level, he is patient with Evelyn. But even that enrages Evelyn: “Oh, he was becoming a real saint. At times it made her want to hit him.” (375) And hit him she does with verbal assaults that illustrate her nasty nature. In the first half of the story, the reader believes Evelyn is the saint for accepting Rudolph and his limitations as she has, but as the story continues with new hope for change and growth, Evelyn cannot risk losing her current stature in their relationship. Johnson shows the reader how Evelyn’s lack of compassion and goodness is limiting her more than Rudolph’s health limited him.
These four short stories have rich and complex characters. The authors reveal to the reader how their characters’ actions reveal their natures, but it is also true that their natures dictate their actions. Why do humans treat humans differently and what motivates us to show compassion, or not? Is our personal nature the driving force behind our actions? When a person is kind, is it because he cannot help himself, just as Evelyn cannot seem to help herself from being unkind? Does Isabel have a choice to invite Maddy or is it simply that she is good and so she invites her? If that were true, then our lives would be a lot less complex. It is our reaction to our natures that makes life interesting. It is our choices despite our natures that make the difference. Choosing to be compassionate, even when we feel disdain, makes us truly good characters. Just as Rudolph has chosen to draw himself onto his feet despite the risks, we must draw ourselves to our good natures and make choices that put us at risk in the name of compassion.

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

Why Socialism Is Bad and Doesn't Work

...Why Socialism is Bad and Doesn't Work 1. Introduction Socialism is a socioeconomic philosophy which has failed everywhere it has been tried. Socialism is bad because it results in large, intrusive and controlling government that diminishes the role and value of individual citizens. While Socialism promises prosperity, equality, and security, it delivers poverty because it promotes victimhood and big government solutions; and it offers a false hope of a utopian society which results in the loss of freedom and the rise of governmental tyranny. Socialism is defined as a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production. Many have come to realize that it was nothing but a catastrophic failure . Socialism was created to remedy the economic and moral defects of capitalism. However, it has far surpassed capitalism in both economic malfunction and moral cruelty. Yet the idea and the ideal of socialism remain as a solution today. 2. History Socialism aims at a social system based on public ownership of the means of production (Von Mises, 1969). Arising in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century, socialism developed as a reaction to the hardships caused by capitalism and industrial revolution. The premise of socialism is that the government owns and operates all material resources in a social system. Socialism first originated in France and England at about the same time, but as it grew socialism took individual paths throughout each...

Words: 2707 - Pages: 11

Premium Essay

Good Boss in Bad Economy

...would be would be bad enough, but the problem times: predictability, understandhiring a lot more people in the coming is compounded because a boss’s self-abing, control, and compassion. year. Yet, he said, “no matter how much I sorbed words and deeds are scrutinized » By making tough times less traushare about how safe we are, people still so closely by his or her followers. Commatic, you’ll equip your organizaask, When are the layoffs coming?” Even bined, these tendencies make for a toxic tion to thrive when conditions where jobs are demonstrably safe, lesser tandem that deserves closer study. improve – and earn the loyalty of but real disappointments occur: Salaries To appreciate the first half of the dyindividuals who will remain in your network for years to come. are cut, budgets are pared, projects are namic – that bosses tend to be oblivious back-burnered. to their followers’ perspectives – conAs a result, most bosses – like you, sider the “cookie experiment” reported perhaps – are operating in difficult by the psychologists Dacher Keltner, and sometimes unfamiliar territory. Deborah H. Gruenfeld, and Cameron Equipped with skills and approaches Anderson in 2003. In this study, teams honed over long years of business growth, they now find their of three students each were instructed to produce a short roles defined by an unexpected question: How should people policy paper. Two members of each team were randomly asbe managed when fear is in the air, confidence is......

Words: 5837 - Pages: 24

Free Essay

The Things They Carried

...through an inner conflict between love and duty, carrying his orders in his mind and Martha in his heart. But how far can war or following orders, impair the human side of compassion and love? Although, soldiers become men at war, O’Brien focuses in a story where war makes men emotionally handicap, leaving mental scars that may never heal. The story is told by a third person’s point of view, however, O’Brien includes a touch of his personal experiences during the war where he spent a year in Vietnam (Hicks). As Josiah Bunting said, “The things he carried into war are very different from what he carried away from it” (Bunting) expressing O’Brien’s experience at war and how his experience as a soldier would convince readers to believe that the different traumatic moments really happened. Although his personal experiences are counted as relevant, some critics consider his storytelling to be “nothing new about trying to tell war stories- that the “truths” they contain “are contradictory”, elusive and this indeterminate”. Kaplan goes on saying that “representation includes staging what might have happened in Vietnam while simultaneously questioning the accuracy and credibility of the narrative act itself” (Kaplan). Nonetheless, through “The Things They Carried” much of his personal military knowledge is related to the story which created a deeper impact to imagination with an “air of reconciliation between the present and the past” (Streitfeld). Military abbreviations including......

Words: 1662 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay

Rel2300

... d. Carl Jung. 4. Sigmund Freud, when analyzing the origin of religion, emphasized a. the human need for psychological security. b. the certainty of an afterlife. c. his belief that religions were essential to psychological health. d. the valuable role that religions play in helping people find meaning in their lives. 5. Belief in many gods is called a. polytheism. b. monotheism. c. agnosticism. d. atheism. 6. Belief in one God is called a. monotheism. b. polytheism. c. atheism. d. agnosticism. 7. A universal religious symbol that is circular, or that blends a circle and a square, is called a a. mandala. b. mudra. c. mantra. d. megalith 8. Pantheism is the belief a. that all reality is divine. b. in the ancient Greek religion that believed the god Pan was the source of cosmic order. c. in endless reincarnation. d. in a timeless realm of happiness at the top of the universe 9. In religious studies, the word myth means a. a story that is historically true. b. a story that is historically untrue. c. a story that is psychologically meaningful and may be either historically true or not. d. a story that is found in similar form in many religions 10. That area of investigation that looks for and interprets religious evidence in ancient sites, buildings, and objects is a. anthropology. b. mythology. c. sociology. d. archeology. 11. The......

Words: 1701 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay

Lesson Plan

...Alcock Table of Contents Introduction About Short Stories The Writer Synopsis Elements Activities Beyond The Text Assessment Answer Key Glossary Panel of Writers [pic] SHORT STORY Welcome to the World of Literature and to Short Stories! We hope you will enjoy working with this guidebook, which has been specially designed to help you prepare your students enjoy the Literature Component of the KBSM English Language syllabus. A brief explanation of the short story genre has been provided together with suggested activities, teaching steps and worksheets/handouts. An answer key with suggested answers has been provided at the end of the guide to assist you. There is also an assessment section with contextual questions and ideas for authentic assessment and a glossary at the end of each story. We recommend that the activities in this guidebook be adapted for your students’ needs and be carried out creatively in order to develop students’ appreciation and critical analysis of the short stories. Be ready to listen to students’ views and opinions, and encourage them to work out the answers. It is our sincere hope that the activities and worksheets in this guidebook will act as a springboard for your own ideas and methods of exploring the individual stories. SHORT STORY What is a Short Story? Can you explain what makes a short story? Well, a short story is a short piece of fiction aiming at unity of......

Words: 6476 - Pages: 26

Free Essay

Hoosiers

...The definition of Ripple Effect according to our text is, “A chain reaction that begins in one part of a system and spreads across an entire system.” In the movie Hoosiers, one can see an example of the Ripple Effect take place within the townspeople. With the team’s star player not returning, there are many opinions and suggestions being made as to how the Hickory Huskers should be coached. When the new coach Norman Dale seems to brush the opinions of the townspeople away, they become hostile and agitated with him. George Walker, who is the obvious leader of the concerned townspeople, decides that he will step in and become the assistant coach. When George is denied the role of assistant coach, there is immediate hostility. George rallies fellow parents and townspeople to observe practices and gets them riled up about the new coaching techniques Coach Dale uses. When Coach Dale decides to recruit the town drunk as his assistant coach, George convinces the people to go as far as taking a vote to get Coach Dale removed from his position. The anger and frustration from one person ended up radiating throughout an entire town, and although some people may have never acted on their feelings, the actions of one man caused the Ripple Effect of actions through many. The Ripple Effect doesn’t always lead to a negative outcome. At the town meeting to have the coach voted out of his position, Myra Fleener, who is a fellow teacher at Hickory High, stands before the people and tells them......

Words: 2113 - Pages: 9

Free Essay

Book Report on Hunger Games and How It Relates to Society

...Book Report The Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins, appears to be your average teen romance trilogy, but upon second glance one realizes that this is not the case. Collins writes about a future nation that requires its children to kill each other as a form of entertainment for the people of the Capitol. The plot makes for a very exciting story line, but as the reader one cannot help but wonder what message Collins is trying to get across. Does she believe that if we continue down the path that society is currently taking we will someday face a world similar to Panem? That this fiction could someday become a reality on certain levels? Within these novels, Collins includes several important themes, including: corrupt politics, starvation vs. greed, and the obsession with entertainment. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in the nation of Panem, a post-apocalyptic North America, with her mother and younger sister, Prim. Her family resides in District 12, the poorest of 12 districts ruled by the wealthy Capitol. Katniss provides for her mother and sister by hunting with her friend Gale in the forbidden woods nearby. As punishment for the districts' rebellion attempt years earlier, the Capitol holds an annual televised event called The Hunger Games. Each district must draw the names of a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18. These 24 youths become contestants, called tributes, who must fight to the death in a vast arena created by the Capitol Gamemakers. The lone......

Words: 1465 - Pages: 6

Free Essay

Leadership Style of Rudy Giuliani

...the Southern District of New York. In this position, “he spearheaded the effort to jail drug dealers, fight organized crime, break the web of corruption in government, and prosecute white collar criminals” (“Biography of Rudy Giuliani,” n.d.). Using these accomplishments and the fight to clean up New York City, Rudy Giuliani entered race for Mayor of New York City in 1989 and fell short by slimmest of margins. In 1993, Giuliani led a tenacious fight and won the mayoral election to become the 107th Mayor of New York City. Four years later, he was re-elected to for another 4 years to continue leading one of largest and most economically important cities in the world. During his first term, Mayor Giuliani experienced enormous success with reductions in violent crime, increased property values, and widespread redevelopment. His second term proved problematic, with his promises for education falling short, his highly public and acrimonious divorce, notorious incidents of police brutality, and his withdrawal from a race for Senator against former First Lady Hillary Clinton. Just four months short of the end of his tenure as Mayor, Giuliani’s popularity rating was at an all-time low and most of New York, especially minorities, were anxious to see him fade into the sunset. All of this changed on September 11, 2011, and the events that unfolded during Giuliani’s final months in office. His charismatic and inspirational leadership during the aftermath of the worst terrorist......

Words: 1728 - Pages: 7

Free Essay

English

...Henry and Prem Chand in the short stories of - Tanweer Jehan All writers are true inheritors and by virtue of their creative power contribute in the very process of inheritance. They take whether consciously or not, what their predecessors pass on to them, through the great treasure house of thought and feeling registered in their works. Then from their space in time and place, the socio-political conditions of the immediate world influencing their creativity and their contribution in turn, impact the lives of people ; individual lives and also certain section or class of society. This becomes more evident in times of political or socio-economic crises in the lives of nations when they are fighting for freedom, civil rights or some major changes are taking place in the social or political structure of society. Writers as social-realists reflect and thus cause changes in the society at a given point in time. This makes their writings more relevant and valuable for the future generations. 19thcentury and early 20thcentury witnessed this paradigm shift across cultures and literature written there around saw it projected with sincerity and firmness of purpose. In this article I take to find the changes that were taking place and how these were faithfully reflected in the short narrative writings of two master narrators, about their respective cultures and socio-political inheritance-O. Henry and Prem Chand. The short stories selected here are chosen to highlight...

Words: 3778 - Pages: 16

Premium Essay

Olive Senior

...editor, 1972-77; Social and Economic Studies, editor, 1972-77; freelance writer and researcher, part-time teacher in communications, publishing consultant, and speech writer, Jamaica, 1977-82; Institute of Jamaica Publications, managing editor, 1982-89; Jamaica Journal, editor, 1982-89; freelance teacher, writer, lecturer, 1989-; University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, visiting lecturer/writer-in-residence, 1990; Caribbean Writers Summer Institute, University of Miami, Florida, director of fiction workshop, 1994, 1995; St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY, Dana Visiting Professor of creative writing, 1994-95; University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, writer-in-residence, 1998-99. Life's Work Jamaican-born journalist, poet, and short story writer Olive Senior is one of Caribbean literature's leading feminist voices. Her works, though written in English, remain heavily influenced by the region's patois, and draw heavily upon its oral storytelling traditions. In both her verse and fiction, Senior critiques the political and cultural ties that continue to bind Jamaica to its British colonial past. Her protagonists often find themselves divided between the resulting two worlds of assimilation and preservation, and she gives their speech and inner dialogues a corresponding tone. "In Jamaica, much as in England, diction has traditionally signified place of birth, level of education, pedigree," noted a Maclean's writer on Senior's use of language. "But for Senior's......

Words: 2658 - Pages: 11

Free Essay

Global Financial Crisis and Protectionism

... Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Dedication PREFACE TO THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION Introduction Part I - THE PURPOSE OF LIFE Chapter 1 - THE RIGHT TO HAPPINESS Chapter 2 - THE SOURCES OF HAPPINESS Chapter 3 - TRAINING THE MIND FOR HAPPINESS Chapter 4 - RECLAIMING OUR INNATE STATE OF HAPPINESS Part II - HUMAN WARMTH AND COMPASSION Chapter 5 - A NEW MODEL FOR INTIMACY Chapter 6 - DEEPENING OUR CONNECTION TO OTHERS Chapter 7 - THE VALUE AND BENEFITS OF COMPASSION Part III - TRANSFORMING SUFFERING Chapter 8 - FACING SUFFERING Chapter 9 - SELF-CREATED SUFFERING Chapter 10 - SHIFTING PERSPECTIVE Chapter 11 - FINDING MEANING IN PAIN AND SUFFERING Part IV - OVERCOMING OBSTACLES Chapter 12 - BRINGING ABOUT CHANGE Chapter 13 - DEALING WITH ANGER AND HATRED Chapter 14 - DEALING WITH ANXIETY AND BUILDING SELF-ESTEEM Part V - CLOSING REFLECTIONS ON LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE Chapter 15 - BASIC SPIRITUAL VALUES Acknowledgements THE ART OF HAPPINESS BOOK SERIES ABOUT THE AUTHORS RIVERHEAD BOOKS Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Australia), 250......

Words: 89236 - Pages: 357

Premium Essay

The Road- Mccarthy

...man in the head, killing him. the little boy The son sees a little boy during their journey and runs after him, calling out to assure him that he and his father mean no harm. The father, however, forbids his son from pursuing the boy. As he felt regarding the burnt man, the son is again devastated that his father would not allow them to pursue and assist the boy. Even after they leave that area, the son wonders what will become of the little boy and who will take care of him. the naked people Inside a padlocked room in a grand house, the father and the son stumble upon a horde of naked people. They are imprisoned there to be used as food by four men and two women who are cannibals. The naked people beg the protagonists for assistance, but the father and the son must run away in order to escape the cannibals. the cannibals (four men and two women) These people control the large house that the protagonists happen upon. They are cannibals who entrap people in the house and lock them in the padlocked room, where the people are later killed for food. Ely Ely is the only person on the road with whom the protagonists have extensive contact. Upon the boy's pleading, the father agrees to give Ely food and allows him to camp with them for one night. Later, Ely tells the protagonists that he has not given them his real name. He longs for a world without any humans, where death itself would be lonely. three men with pipes The protagonists run into three men who are armed with......

Words: 8091 - Pages: 33

Premium Essay

Hidden History: Humans and Reality

...intrude into the picture and take control. Generally speaking, for those who have delved into such subject matter, the end of the last cycle is known as the downfall of the civilization known as Atlantis. But since we are dealing with massive distortions and manipulations within the current hologram we occupy, let us not allow ourselves the luxury of believing anything we think or have thought as being real, as being real. Many of those with a metaphysical and esoteric bent consider the basic truth about Atlantis to be that it fell a cataclysmic fall around the time we are referring to. It crashed under its own weight and was buried under the ocean. So we have been told, so we believe to be true. But what if that is not the whole story; therefore, let us consider here another possibility. Let's consider the possibility that Atlantis, and the Atlantean race, was not so much a civilization or a race or a period of history, but, within the holographic and spherical scheme of things, Atlantis was a building block in the evolutionary development of the human species towards its ultimate perfection of an integrated vehicle through which our consciousness could be free and without limit to explore a universe that we have always been part and parcel with, a universe that we are, in fact, the co-creators of in a grand and unprecedented experiment. Consider that, in such an experiment, we required of ourselves the ability to move through all layers, or dimensions, of such...

Words: 14173 - Pages: 57

Free Essay

Tainted Milk

... |3 | | | | | |Finding |Responsible Party |4 | | |Leadership Role |5 | | |Image-Saving Tactics |7 | | |Text Message Apology |7 | | |Strategy to Prevent Corruption |8 | | | | | |Conclusion |Role of Institutional Environment In China |10 | | |Regain Trust and Support |11 | | |Effect on China’s Image |12 ...

Words: 2497 - Pages: 10

Premium Essay

Case Study

...From Chronic to Critical: A Latino Family Confronts End-of-Life Decisions By Karen Peterson-Iyer Gabriela Rivera is an 80-year-old Puerto Rican immigrant, who lives alone in her rent-controlled apartment in New York City. She has lived in the United States for almost 40 years and speaks some English, albeit somewhat hesitantly. Her primary language is Spanish. Although she is now retired, for years Gabriela worked in a factory where she was exposed to a variety of industrial chemicals now considered toxic. Gabriela's husband died four years ago of a massive heart attack. She has six adult children, three of whom now live out of state. Gabriela is a devoted mother, calling her children as often as she can afford and even sending them homemade sweets. She raised her children through their teenage years in the same apartment in which she lives today. She is loath to leave it, although she now pays the rent only with great difficulty and substantial financial help from her children. Gabriela has long suffered from high blood pressure, which she controls with medication. She also has type-2 diabetes. When she was originally diagnosed with diabetes, she met once with a nurse who advised her on diet, exercise, and weight control, but Gabriela has found it difficult to adapt her traditional tastes in food and her lifestyle to the recommendations the nurse offered. Subsequently, Gabriela's doctor prescribed medication to help keep her diabetes under control. She tries to take her......

Words: 6862 - Pages: 28