A Critical Reflection of my Final Paper

Alexis Weaver

Jane Lucas

Final Reflection

December 15, 2014

When looking for a topic for my final paper I had a lot of trouble because I was not sure what kind of project I wanted to do.  I could not decide between doing a creative writing project or writing another critical analysis paper.  I was under the impression that a creative writing project would be a lot harder to do than another critical analysis paper so I first tried writing an analysis.  I began getting distracted by the other things that were going on in my life.  I was stressing about Christmas and what I was going to be able to afford for my daughter and that I felt like I had not spent a lot of time with her recently.  I set out to find something that we could do together and that she would like.  I knew she liked playing with dolls so I drug out the container from my mother’s house that had my old Barbie dolls in it.  After pulling these down and looking at all of my old dolls I realized that I wanted to do a creative piece from the story “Bar-B-Q”.  As I began writing the words just started coming to me and I found that it was a lot easier than I had believed.  I finished with a futuristic rendition of the story where the main character is having a flashback to her youth and to the dolls that she and her sister played with.  I feel like with this paper I gave myself enough time to write it and I believe that my paper turned out well.  If I had to go back and do the project again I would choose the same story and creative project again.


What Happens When We Talk about Touchy Topics

To some people it is important to stay in contact with friends from their past. To others it is important to spend time with friends that you have now.  In Raymond Carver’s “What we talk about when we talk about Love” a group of friends gather together for light conversation and partake in rounds of alcohol shots.  In Nathan Englander’s “What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank” a married couple has friends from their childhood visit.  While catching up they begin smoking weed.  In both stories friends come together and partake in drug or alcohol consumption which helps them to have deeper conversations that they may not normally have had under other circumstances.  In both stories you see where two sets of couples come together and in both the couples are polar opposites.  The plots are similar and the stories contain similar characters, narrators, and settings.

The plots to both Carver and Englander’s stories are extremely similar.  In “What we talk about when we talk about love” a group of friends gather together and drink gin and tonic.  The couples begin having a discussion about love and what they think it is.  This part reveals a lot about the characters and their qualities based on their ideas of love.  The narrator and his wife seem to believe they know what love is “for them” (135) while their friends bicker and argue over what love actually is by definition.  Eventually, as the group drinks more, they go deeper into the conversation about love until it takes a dark turn. In “What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank” Jewish childhood friends, along with their husbands, reunite after many years of being apart.  While discussing their favorite past times and drinking alcohol they begin smoking marijuana.  This leads to a conversation about the Holocaust and the different perspectives between the narrator and his wife, and their friends.  As the group smokes the conversation becomes deeper until the narrator and his wife are offended by their guests because their friends do not believe that they are Jewish enough or raising their son in the correct Jewish way.  Both of these stories have a similar plot and flow to them.  The stories begin with friends gathering together and enjoying the company of one another, then the group consumes alcohol or marijuana, and they dive into deep conversation.  At the end of each story the conversation makes a dramatic turn which is different than how the conversations began.  In Carver’s story the conversation begins light and easy while they talk about love but as they drink more and the conversation progresses the conversation takes a dark turn when Mel reveals his inner most wishes for what he could do to his wife.  Englander’s story however begins with the conversation having tremendous amounts of tension between the characters while discussing their personal views of what it means to be Jewish”  As he continues in his story and the characters smoke more marijuana the conversation becomes extremely light and silly. These two stories carry a similar them that it is easier to talk to people about otherwise uncomfortable or “touchy topics” while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Along with the plots of the stories they both share similar narrators, characters, and settings.

Carver writes from the point of view of a man, Nick, spending an evening with his wife, Laura, his friend, Mel, and Mel’s second wife, Terri.  The group all had their own ideas and voiced them when it seemed appropriate. The narrator is a quiet man compared to Mel and Terri.  Nick mainly only speaks when spoken to and is not quick for opposition.  He and his wife sit quietly while the other two bicker.  Englander writes from the point of view of a man spending time with his wife, Debbie, her best friend from her childhood, Shoshana (Lauren), and her husband, Yerucham (Mark).   The main thing that this group of friends has in common is that they are all Jewish although Shoshana and her husband, Yerucham, practice it more traditionally.  The narrator in Englander’s story is not as quite as in Carver’s story and has no problem voicing his ideas and opposing Mark when they view matters differently.  Both stories have two sets of couples that are polar opposites.  In Carver’s story Mel and Terri do not agree on what love is and therefore begin to bicker and argue.  Nick and Laura, however, have the same idea of what love is and they seem to have a solid and cute relationship which Terri describes “still being on their honeymoon” (135).  In Englander’s story the narrator and his wife are Jewish while their friends are Hassidic.  Their friends came from Jerusalem and they live a completely different lifestyle than the narrator does.  The setting for each story was also very similar.  In “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love” the group sit around the table at Mel’s house and this is where they stay for the entire story.  In “What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank” the group is in various places, but they are in the narrator’s home instead of in a friend’s home.  Carver’s story takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Englander’s story takes place in South Florida.  Although the state in which these stories take place are polar opposites the general setting for which the stories take place are extremely similar.  The similarities between the two could suggest that these two stories have a connection.

When Nathan Englander wrote “What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank” in 2011 I believe that he used the same plot, type of characters, and setting for his story because of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love” that was published in 1981.  Carver’s theme of being able to speak more openly while under the influence of mind-altering substances gives a great background for a story to seem light-hearted but really have a deeper meaning.  These two stories share the same plots, themes, types of characters, and settings.  Although they have different types of characters and they are not in the same immediate setting the two stories still share enough similarities that it can be concluded that Englander may have written his story after Carver’s.

Who’s to Know?

“And if the prettiest doll, Barbie’s MOD’ern cousin Francie with real eyelashes, eyelash brush included, has a left foot that’s melted a little-so?  If you dress her in her new ‘Prom Pinks’ outfit, satin splendor with matching coat, gold belt, clutch and hair bow included, so long as you don’t lift her dress, right?-who’s to know” (184).  Sandra Cisneros uses a young girl to tell a story about the toys that she and her sister played with as children.  Within the story the young girl makes adult references and that children her age normally would not make.  This could hint at a dysfunction within the way children are perceiving adulthood. They could be receiving models from their home life and media that are causing this abnormality in character.

Young children today can be very impressionable.  In this story the narrator and her sister are both under privileged children who are playing with their Barbie dolls.  From the very beginning the narrator is comparing them in a competitive way.  “Yours is the one with the mean eyes and a ponytail.  Striped swimsuit, stilettos, sunglasses, and gold hoop earrings.  Mine is the one with bubble hair.  Red swimsuit, stilettos, pearl earrings, and a wire stand” (183).  In this statement the author is comparing she and her sister’s Barbie dolls, but using them as a competition.  This could be from general sibling rivalry.  However, later in the story she describes the scenario that comes with their Barbie’s interaction.  “Everytime the same story.

Your Barbie is roommates with my Barbie, and my Barbie’s boyfriend comes over and your Barbie steals him, okay?  Kiss kiss kiss. Then the two Barbies fight.  You dumbbell! He’s mine! Oh no he’s not, you stinky” (184).  This is a scenario that is normally occurring in those who are in their late teens or early twenties.  Such as those who are in college or just moving out on their own.  This is not the typical exchange you would expect to see between two young girls playing with Barbie dolls.  They could have witnessed a scenario like this at home or viewed it in the media around them.  Either way something has influenced these two girls to believe that putting the other down, competing for boys, and slandering one another is a common thing in older individuals.  When thinking about how the narrator describes the burnt Barbie doll this could also reflect things that these girls are perceiving from the media.  She points out that if you put the Barbie in a specific dress and don’t actually look at the dolls burnt foot then you do not realize that it is there.  This perception of “covering up what is ugly so that others will not notice” most likely came from the media.  For these girls to see this type of behavior and then carry it out in their play may allude to them acting this way in the future, but at a younger age than most girls.

In Cisneros’ story she uses a young girl to narrate how she and her sister play.  She also tells the joy of finding “new” toys even though they are slightly damaged.  Within the story these young girls carry out scenarios that are mainly portrayed by younger adults or adults.  The young girls do not understand what they are doing and believe t is a matter of playing.  The abnormality of character in these young girls could come from the adulthood that they perceive through their home life and the media.

Work Cited

Cisneros, Sandra. “Barbie-Q.” The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Boston: Bedbbbbbbford, 2003. 183-84. Print