Thursday, March 5, 2009

"A Different Road" & Mystic River

1. The short story I chose for this week was “A Different Road” by Elizabeth Strout. Character development for the story was detailed for the main characters Olive and Henry. We know their age and their main personalities. Olive was not really a people person unlike her husband who was cheerful and friendly. The author describes the characters well enough because part of the mystery is why they have changed. The main characters of Mystic River were very dark. They all had shared an issue when they were little and it changed them. This is similar to the short story because the couple is involved in an incident that changes them. It brings out their dark side like in the novel. The plot in the short story had a few flashbacks so it made the story a little confusing if you weren’t paying attention. On the other hand, the plot in the novel was pretty straight forward. The main mystery was who killed Katie. Both the short story and novel had all the loose ends tied up. The mystery was answered. The short story is set in a small New England town. The old couple lives in a retirement village and keeps to themselves pretty much. The novel is in an urban area. Two different settings but both stories revolve around relationships. The theme in the short story was when we fear for our lives or for those we love we will do anything to survive and the cost of doing that can damage relationships. In the novel, the theme was also about relationships and how the past can bind people together.
I think both stories were good, but I wanted the novel to end before the Jimmy Flats section. The short story was the right length and wrapped things up nicely.
I really like both stories this week because the novel was predictable and easy to follow. I didn’t have to think too hard when reading it. The short story was a quick and easy read.
2. My short story author was a female and I found that the descriptions and emotions that female authors write with were very apparent in the story. She wrote about a senior couple and how their relationship changed one evening. Mystic River was also full of description and situations that brought vivid pictures to mind. Some of the pictures I didn’t want to see. Both stories showed a dark side to human nature. I liked both the short story and the novel this week. Both authors did a good job with what they were trying to portray.
3. This was a story about a senior couple, Olive and Henry, who are having a fine life. She helps the elderly in her community and he has a friend in the neighborhood that he visits with. One day they go to dinner with friends and the wife gets ill and needs to use the restroom. The nearest place is a hospital so they pull over. The nurse on duty wants to check out Olive to make sure she is not ill and while waiting for the doctor, the emergency room is held up. Henry, Olive, the nurse and the doctor are all put in the bathroom with a masked gunman. Olive and Henry say things about each other to keep the gunman from shooting them. Their feelings are hurt; Henry’s more than Olive’s and it changes their relationship. The author wrapped it up nicely so that I knew why they had changed but I didn’t feel there was much hope in the end for their relationship to recover. I feel they will stay together until they die but won’t be happy like they were, and I don’t like sad endings. I wasn’t surprised that the incident changed their relationship and it did remind me to appreciate the relationships I do have.
4. I’m going to post this again since I didn’t get any comments last week probably because life wouldn’t let me get to my homework before Sunday. I think that I’ve noticed from reading these novels that women are never portrayed as truly strong and independent in their own right. They are seen as bitchy, flaky, needy, helpless, rude, or bitter. We have not seen a female character yet that is not harassed or patronized by men. Most of the male characters seem to give women the virtual pat on the head and smile condescendingly at them. I would really like to find a female character that all the other characters like and respect and she also is strong and independent.
5. I have enjoyed reading the different authors and seeing that I prefer a certain kind of detective and mystery. I don’t mind reading the dark mystery but I also need to have a light, humorous one to read in-between or every so often.


  1. I would agree, Marcia, that to see women portrayed in such stereotypical, and relatively negative ways can be quite disheartening. It does always seem as though the female characters are co-dependent, distant, rude, ditzy or stupid, or on the low end of the moral totem pole. Maybe a female character who embodies a real woman without those characteristics might be one to shoot for in your short story? Although maybe it is an issue with the genre to have a need for such flawed characters?

  2. I am trying to think of the men we have read about. They often were distant, rude and on the low end of the moral totem pole. I agree it is an issue with the genre to have flawed characters. That being said, I think in general, the women, even when written by women, tend to be shown in the worst light.

  3. I liked your comment that both stories showed a dark side to human nature. I feel that in A Differnt Road, the hold up brought out the dark side of Henry and Olive. Rather than expressing their love and devotion to each other, they were busy placing blame on one another. The words exchanged left deep and hurtful scars. And in Mystic River, it discussed the dark side of all main characters. It talked about crime and the lack of desire to improve themselves. It makes me wonder what I would do in the shoes of Olive and Henry. I would hope that rather than discussing negative things, I would talk about the positive in my relationships.

  4. During this course, I have found that I tend to like the female characters because the usually add more emotion to the their stories. I thought what you said about female writers was very true. "My short story author was a female and I found that the descriptions and emotions that female authors write with were very apparent in the story."