Exile and belonging in american short fiction

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Title and Code Course:
EN 205, Exile and Belonging in American Short Fiction

Student Name and Number:
Lucie Legrand

Programme Code:

Full and Exact Essay Title:
A recurring theme in the stories is the failure of characters to take responsibility for their own lives. Discuss the nature of theses failures, drawing upon at least two of the stories from the course.Lecturer's name:
M. Brian Duffy


I hereby certify that this material, which I now submit for assessment on module EN205 ‘Exile and Belonging in American Short Fiction’ is entirely my own work and has not been taken from the work of others except in such cases that such work has been cited and acknowledged within the text of my work.

ID No.: _______________ 58108378 __________________
Date: ________14/01/09____________
A recurring theme in the stories is the failure of characters to take responsibility for their own lives. Discuss the nature of theses failures, drawing upon at least two of the stories from the course.

Failures are usually errors in your life that you have to learn from. Theyusually exist without the protagonist knowing they exist, because when youknow you failed, you do not keep the same scheme of behaviour or life. The two short stories I have chosen to concentrate on are have both been written by a woman and have a woman as the main character: “You’re Ugly Too” written by Lorrie Moore in 1990 and “The Best Grilfriend You Never Had” written by Pam Houston in 1999. Whatis interesting with these two stories is that they have been written at the same period (they involve people belonging to the same generation even if nine years distance them) and treat of the same subject: Who am I? Where do I go? The women who are protagonists of the two short stories are really different, but their lives strangely match each other ones. They both are in their early thirties,done with school and having a job but living alone: we clearly understand that neither of them is satisfied of their lives as they are. The failures that are theirs have differents roots but identical consequences on their lives: what they live now comes from what the choices they had or hadn’t made. We can categorize their failure in three different types: first, they clearly undergo a social andloving failure, secondly, self esteem is a problem to them and finally, making decisions and changes in their own lives seems difficult for them.

What is stricking in both stories is the loneliness of the characters: on one hand, Zoe (“You’re Ugly Too), who lives alone in a big empty house far away from her family, is a professor who does not really have any friend and has not managed yetto keep a stable realtionship with a man. On the other hand, Lucy (“The Best Girlfriend You Never Had”) is a photographer living in a big city alone in a strange house and who is actually dying for love and attention.
Zoe is isolated in different ways: she does not manage to keep a decent realtionship with a man, always giving up (“she had to learn not to be afraid of a man” p.664). She isalso lonely in her job (nobody really seems to think she does a great job every day): she only still is employed in the college she works for because she is a woman and that the college had been sued for “sex- discrimination” (p.652). Her house is another example of her loneliness: it is big and rather empty; But each time she tries to furnish it, she implacably always return what she bought, justlike if the furniture were too alive, too present for her; too many things her house could make her inconfortable. She seems to only be alright when she is with herself. When her sister invites her to a party (p.655) and that she actually gets there, she seems out of the picture, completely disconnected from the others: she is critical against everything (“there was a gaggle of sexy witches”...
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