Jill McCorkle’s novel, Ferris Beach, fits perfectly into the popular genre of the bildungsroman. Ferris Beach tells the story of Kate Burns and her struggle to find her identity in a rapidly changing world. Kate looks for permanency in the swiftly changing environment of the New South. Kate’s search for permanency forces her to deal with many of the other vital questions in her life. The struggle to deal with change, a central theme in most bildungsromans, certainly plays a major role in Ferris Beach. McCorkle’s Ferris beach participates in the bildungsroman tradition. Like Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Dickens’s Great Expectation , McCorkle’s narrative focuses on the “coming of age” of its hero-in this case, Kate Burns. Ferris Beach traces Kate’s physical and spiritual journey on the path to maturity as she deals with sexuality, insecurity about appearance, and most importantly the question of life’s impermanence. McCorkle sets her story in the changing South, creating a parallel between Kate’s transition and the South’s transition from adolescence.
The transition of the South can be seen from the opening of the novel where a pillar of Kate’s small southern town, Mrs. Poole, gripes about the “Split-levels,” (the northerners) moving into their neighborhood. Mrs. Poole’s attempt to resist the South’s change immediately confronts the reader; this sets the mood for the rest of the novel.
As Kate Burns goes through adolescence she slowly begins to realize that change can never be avoided, and change truly scares Kate. Naturally, Kate attempts to hold on to moments of security, where everything exists as she would like it. Kate desires permanency; Kate’s constant longing to stop time and freeze certain periods of time shows this desire. Kate takes mental snapshots of certain times, and just cherishes and savors these moments. As Kate matures she begins to understand that life’s little surprises always bring the unexpected, whether it be good or bad, and she must treasure the brief moments of security:
I stepped into the middle of the road and just stood there, the lights stretching in either direction, glowing in the deep chilly air. I could see my own breath, could feel my own warmth as it formed right there in front of me. Behind me, our house looked dark, faint lingering of I’d walk a million miles, and I wasn’t even sure if it was really playing or if I was imagining the familiar, the same way a bright light remain when you close your eyelids, the way I imagine that the sight of an eclipse would burn its image into your eyes forever(pg.
Differing Perspectives of Life in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, By Hemingway
Differing Perspectives of Life in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
“A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” was written by Hemingway in 1933. It details an evening’s interaction between two waiters, and their differing perspectives of life. Hemingway uses an old man as a patron to demonstrate the waiter’s philosophies. Hemingway is also visible in the story as the old man, someone who society says should be content, but has a significant empty feeling inside. This essay will present a line-by-line analysis, with emphasis on the philosophies of the waiters.
This story focuses on two waiters at a cafe in Madrid, and their differing outlooks upon life. Their views are shown as they talk about an old man in the cafe, and each contemplate their life. The old man, who may be a reflection of Hemingway’s anticipated aging, enjoys drinking in the cafe late at night. This may be a reflection of Hemingway’s own writing in cafes in Paris. The old man prefers drinking late at night when the atmosphere is much more settled. The waiters kept a careful eye on the old man, as he has been known to leave without paying after too many drinks.
As the two waiters monitor the old man, they younger waiter mentions that the old man tried to kill himself in the previous week. The older waiter asks why, and the younger tells him that he had no reason to kill himself because he had “plenty of money.” The older waiter lets the conversation drop after he hears this, because this statement shows the younger waiter’s perspective. The older waiter seems to have empathy for the older patron, where the younger waiter has ill feelings to the customer. The older waiter seems to be more aware of a larger sense of existence where ev…
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…t in a matter of time, he could be ( is? ) a customer in the cafe. He gets as much out of working as he would out of drinking. He is afraid of the dark, afraid of the nothing, afraid of what may happen to him in time to come, and how he many be treated.
I think that it is also possible to see Hemingway in this story as the cafe’s old patron. The old man is someone that has become a success by society’s standards, but not by his own. The old man is rich, just as Hemingway was famous, but neither of the two were ever completely satisfied. Hemingway is represented as someone always on safari, or some other glamorous pastime, perhaps trying just to keep busy, to stay away from the nada.
Hemingway, Ernest. “A Clean, Well Lighted Place.” Literature for
Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et.al. New York: HarperCollins 1996.