Mary Robinson’s Two Stories

I am completely intrigued with both of Robinson’s stories that we read for today, “Seizing Control” and “In Jewel.” And I think the reasons I like them so much apply to both stories.  The main reason I am so interested in them is because Robinson writes about what seems to be a single isolated detail of the narrator’s life, her fiancé Jack and the night she was left home alone with her siblings, but ultimately shows the reader so much about the narrator’s character through  her interactions with others.  The simplicity of the stories allows the details and descriptions to bring the characters to life and build so clearly the complicated world in which the narrator resides.

In “In Jewel,” I love how the details about her students, her father, and the mining community are woven so well into her own life and her own history, that everything about the community comes to have a direct impact on her life — how everyone she recognizes in town has in some way shaped a part of her.  The narrator’s personal problems become a reflection of the problems all people living in her community face, and ultimately, the problems of all similar communities.

In “Seizing Control,” I admired the voice of the narrator and the “real” feel of the sibling dynamics.  I have an older brother and younger sister, and everything about the interactions of the kids together was so tangible and vivid.  Robinson never told us about the siblings; the narrator never had some grand realization where she was somehow able to articulate why her siblings acted a certain way.  Instead, she developed them into their own people and flushed them out through their interactions with each other.  And she did it in a poetic, childlike way, justifying their actions even though they all knew they weren’t allowed to be doing what they were doing.

Both stories are so short and so focused on a particular topic, yet Robinson manages to build complicated, real relationships between different people using intricate details and a careful attention to never allowing the narrator to reveal anything to the reader that she shouldn’t know.  I think through our critiques of one another’s work, these are two main themes that keep reappearing: use more details, and show don’t tell.  And I think these two stories are excellent examples of just that.

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2 Responses to Mary Robinson’s Two Stories

  1. John Gregory Brown says:

    Thanks so much for this post, Morganne. Yo’ve done an awesome job writing with care and great attention about this semester’s stories. It appears to me that you read these two stories as though the narrator in both was the same character. Or perhaps I’m misreading your comment about “the narrator.” In any case, as much as I don’ think Robison intended that we view these stories as having a single narrator, the idea intrigues me.

  2. morganne11 says:

    I did actually read them as the same narrator and didn’t even think about it. I guess certain things mentioned in both stories (like Rhode Island) might have given me that idea, and I just got the same sense of voice for some reason in both stories despite the obvious age difference. Maybe it was because I read them both one after the other. After going back though, it became quite obvious that they can’t be the same narrator as the one in In Jewel grew up in a small mining community, and the narrator in Seizing Control is growing up in Rhode Island. It was interesting though looking at what phrases and passages seemed to contain the same voice and thinking about where I got that impression.

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