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Rite of Encounter

Rite of Encounter

Rite of Encounter is, initially a very dry and imposing story. The reader is given same information repeatedly, as if it were not received the first time. This redundancy is an insult to the reader. For instance, in the very first line of the story the narrator tells the reader that, “In the third week of his fasting, Singing- Owl found the white man” (258). This information is given quite clearly, yet later the narrator repeats himself by saying, “A dog meant white men” (259). It is not necessary for the narrator to remind the reader. This “spoon-feeding” is insulting to the reader. The narration was also rather dry. There is little description. The story is conveyed to the reader without any details, and quite plainly, the story is simply reported. The omniscient third person narration is also, at times, confusing. The narration occasionally dips from third person to first without any explanation. For example, when Singing- Owl is suffering of dehydration, fatigue, and hunger the narrator is reporting the condition of the character. Suddenly, the next line reads, “Water. Must get water” (258). It is unclear who says this. Not suprisingly, Bates, employs this strange tactic again to demonstrate Singing- Owl’s exhaustion. The narrator comments on Singing- Owl’s declining condition, then says, “Perhaps I’m tired. All right. I am tired” (261). Again, the reader is left unassured of who is speaking. This intentional alteration of narration only robs the story of unity.

There is, however, one manipulation of the characters which is interesting. Smallpox is characterized beautifully. Giving life to a disease gives life to a story, which, from the beginning, is dragging on without such animation. Smallpox mocks our “hero”, Singing- Owl. This tormenting by a naturally inanimate character saturates the story with fantasy and mysticism.

The conclusion of the story, unfortunately, leaves the reader with the same sense of disappointment with which it was started. Singing- Owl, rather than becoming a hero, becomes a marionette for Smallpox to control. Singing- Owl breaks down and agrees to bring Smallpox back to the tribe. Even though Singing- Owl does not completely understand the methods of Smallpox, he does understand the negative repercussions. Yet, Singing- Owl grants Smallpox’s wish. This event is disappointing to the reader and degrades the main character. Singing- Owl gains some redemption by trying to infect his enemies, but is not effective and is going to die a dishonored man.

Reader Response to A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, By Hemingway

Reader Response to A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

In 1933, Ernest Hemmingway wrote A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. It’s a story of two waiters working late one night in a cafe. Their last customer, a lonely old man getting drunk, is their last customer. The younger waiter wishes the customer would leave while the other waiter is indifferent because he isn’t in so much of a hurry. I had a definite, differentiated response to this piece of literature because in my occupation I can relate to both cafe workers.

Hemmingway’s somber tale is about conquering late night loneliness in a bright cafe. The customer drinking brandy suffers from it and so does the older waiter. However, the younger waiter cannot understand loneliness because he probably hasn’t been very lonely in his life. He mentions a couple times throughout the story that he wished to be able to go home to his wife, yet the old man and old waiter have no wives to go home to like he does. This story have a deeper meaning to me because I often am in a similar situation at work.

For a little over three years, I’ve been a weekend bartender at an American Legion Club. I almost always work the entire weekends, open to close, which proves to be a tortorous schedule at times. Like the cafe in Hemmingway’s tale, the Legion is a civilized place, often well lit, and quieter than most clubs. Because members have to either have served in the military during wartime or have a relative that did, the patronage is often older and more respectful than an average barroom. And because most members are older, they may not have a family to go home to, or they may be just a little more dismal because their lives have been longer and harder than most. In many ways, they are very much like the old man sipping brandy while hiding in the shadows of the leaves in Hemmingway’s cafe. And in many ways, I am like the young waiter, anxious to leave.

The young waiter seems selfish and inconsiderate of anyone else. In the beginning of the story, he’s confused why the old man tried to kill himself. “He has plenty of money,” he says, as if that’s the only thing anyone needs for happiness. When the old man orders another drink, the younger waiter warns him that he’ll get drunk, as if to waver his own responsibility rather than to warn the old man for his sake.

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