Analysis Of Barthelme's The Balloon

654 words - 3 pages

This is a story about how the balloon explores the public's response to it and the relationship with the narrator conscience. The balloon itself is the symbolic representation of the story, so that the reader is forced to confront and respond to the story in the same way that the citizens of New York City must confront and respond to the balloon. The balloon can represent any imaginative origin, as the public demonstrates. The mention of the balloon as having a “deliberate lack of finish” which gave the “surface a rough forgotten quality” reinforced the idea that the balloon is an art object designed to provoke public and private reactions.

An awkward, purposeless balloon that suddenly appears in New York City, which covers almost the entire southern half of Manhattan, and covering twenty-five blocks. The balloon was inflated by the narrator one night while people were sleeping. The narrator first refers to the appearance of the balloon as a situation, but situations imply a set of circumstances that leads to some resolution which evoke a variety of responses. The balloon provokes a series of reactions from various people in the city. The impressions ran from the ordinary to the imaginative. The balloon's meaning is an alarmingly mysterious. The lack of a fixed reason for the balloon creates a lack of trust, frustration, and hostility for the authorities. Experts conduct secret tests to determine ways of removing or destroying the balloon, but because the narrator has hidden the pumps, there was nothing the authorities could do.

In contrast to the suspicions of the authorities, the public responded was accepting to the balloon. Children enjoyed bouncing on it, and others begin to “locate themselves” in relation to it. Opinions vary, but even people who are unsure towards the balloon experience an “admixture of pleasurable cognition.” The balloon gives the public a unique opportunity for reflection, even though the balloon's meaning can never be known completely. Each person's response to...

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