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The Character Puzzle Barry Hannah's "Water Liars," Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," And William Faulkner's "Barn Burning"

1900 words - 8 pages

The Character PuzzleHuman growth is an extraordinary anomaly. Every individual has their own way. Yet, the journey to maturity is hardly ever taken on a road with no bumps or sudden twists. Each personality must suffer conflict. Then, they must learn and grow from this in order to go through the 'rites of passage'. The age people achieve this varies, and some never see the other side. For the ones that do cross the bridge, maturity doesn't happen all at once. True adulthood is a puzzle, and each piece is a conflict that helps to form the character. This vital piece of information is valid for character building in literature as well. The main protagonists in most fictional short stories are round characters, individuals undergoing complex emotions who are libel to change somehow during the plot. Although readers don't normally view the puzzle in its entirety within a short story, they observe the placement of at least one missing piece. The authors of the week, Barry Hannah, Raymond Carver, and William Faulkner exemplify the character puzzle process, known as characterization, in literature.To begin with, through first person characterization, Hannah reveals his protagonist, the narrator, as a thirty-three year old, somewhat religious, man shrouded with flaws consisting of jealousy and pride in "Water Liars". As the story progresses, the narrator works through a couple of these faults. Thus, he finds where one of his puzzle pieces belongs and earns his right to be called a round character. The narrator begins his tale by explaining he is in the midst of a conflict. "When I am run down and flocked around by the world, I go down to Farte Cove off the Yazoo River and take my beer to the end of the pier where the old liars are still snapping and wheezing at one another"(Hannah). The prior sentence reveals that he is depressed and upset by his life and feels the need to escape. Shortly after, he divulges he is in conflict with himself for the reason his wife of ten years has revealed her active sex-life before their union. The antagonist, thoughts of his wife in other men's embraces, prey his mind. However, he admits to having told her first about his previous lovers. He describes his sex life as a "mildly exciting and usual history". In his eyes, he perceives himself as merely the experienced lover, but hearing his wife's revelation, he views her as being promiscuous even though the occurrence is prior to their union. At this point, the protagonist is proud of his sexual history. Again, he uses the word "exciting". The conflict is of the age old double standard. Men are expected to have sex whenever, wherever, with whomever before tying the knot; whereas, women should remain virgins until dressed in white dresses they walk down the aisle. On the other hand, as the story progresses, the narrator does come to the realization that it is a double standard. "But I was the worst back then. In the mad days back then, I dragged the panties off girls I hated...

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