Various Authors Essay

Total Length: 1199 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

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Werewolf, Harrison Bergeron, and a Continuity of Parks

When considered together, seemingly disparate stories can sometimes actually serve to illuminate each other better than a discrete reading of any given text. With that in mind, this essay will examine the short stories "Harrison Bergeron," "The Werewolf," and "A Continuity of Parks" in conjunction with each other, specifically looking at how each story challenges the reader's assumptions with a kind of "surprise" twist at the end. In particular, the unique way in which each story reveals the reality of the situation demonstrates how different stories may accomplish the same goal using means especially relevant to that particular story, because where "Harrison Bergeron" uses the bluntness of language to shock its reader out of a reverie, "The Werewolf" adapts a well-known fairy tale as a means of subverting the reader's assumptions, and "A Continuity of Parks" uses the structure of the narrative itself to actually threaten the reader. Considering each of these stories together will serve to highlight the almost confrontational relationship between reader and text and demonstrate how texts are able to subtly or explicitly challenge the reader.

Of the three stories to be considered here, Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" is the least likely to be described as having a "twist," because unlike the other two, the facts of the story are relatively straightforward and there is no grand reveal at the end. Instead, the twist is a kind of thematic and linguistic shift that occurs when Diana Moon Glampers kills Harrison and the ballerina he has chosen to be his "empress." Immediately before the Handicapper General kills Harrison and the ballerina, the two of them had been dancing, and that language used to describe their dance is carefree and ample. The narrator says that "they reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun," as "not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well" (Vonnegut 12). As Harrison and the ballerina are "neutralizing gravity with love and pure will," the language describing this scene is correspondingly airy, bright, and uplifting.
The twist comes with the arrival of Diana Moon Glampers, when she "came into the studio with a double- barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor" (Vonnegut 12). The change in language and tone is so dramatic that it echoes the devastating effect of the shotgun, blasting the reader out of the reverie caused by the earlier description of Harrison's dance. Thus, "Harrison Bergeron" uses this blunt, abrupt language in order to mirror the events of the story and heighten their emotional impact by assaulting the reader at the same as it is assaulting the main characters.

Where "Harrison Bergeron" relies on the linguistic shift within the story in order to shock the reader, Angela Carter's "The Werewolf" relies on the reader's previous knowledge of the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" in order to achieve the intended effect. "The Werewolf" is essentially a retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" but with the characters of the wolf and grandmother conflated into the titular werewolf. This fact is revealed at the end of the story, and although it does not contain the same kind of linguistic shift as "Harrison Bergeron," the twist is just as abrupt. The girl drops what was previously a wolf's paw and finds that it has changed into "a hand, chopped off at the wrist, a hand toughened with work and freckled with old age," with "a wedding ring on the third finger….....

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