Do Our Stories Accurately Represent Us?

An event that happened in your past can determine your future. It can shape and change how you present yourself to the world and your personality. But, do the stories of one’s past reveal a window into their true characteristics and more importantly their humanity. The George Saunders story, “Escape From Spiderhead”, provides insight on how our rhetoric and the stories we tell reflect on us.

George Saunders, in “Escape From Spiderhead”, creates a vivid world that explores power dynamics and how the backstories of characters are curated to feed into these dynamics. In the short story, Abnesti, a warden-like character, has drilled a handful of stories of his life into the mind of the protagonist, Jeff.

Jeff knows that Abnesti has children and he knows the names of his children. Abnesti provides these details to show the audience he is not a bad person. He even asks Jeff the rhetorical question, “Am I a monster?” (68). Abnesti has created a three dimensional portrayal of himself to Jeff. He is a good guy, a father, but this is his job.

While Abnesti has created a humane image of himself, he goes out of his way to selectively chose bad stories that he tells about the “criminals” in Spiderhead. An example of this is when he gives Jeff a file of Rachel’s criminal acts. These acts include going “to jail for drugs”(74) among other crimes. This strips Rachel of her humanity. The backstories used for Abnesti versus Rachel illuminate the power Abnesti holds over her and the other “criminals”. This causes Abnesti to seem like a real human while those under him aren’t. Backstories can lift up those in control while degrading the powerless.

4 thoughts on “Do Our Stories Accurately Represent Us?

  1. Isabel K

    I really like this interpretation of how people see us! I agree that we are seen by others by way of the stories that we are told. And I find it interesting how you frame this concept using the stories of Abnesti being the “good guy”, and a family man, while Jeff and the other prisoners are constantly reminded that each of them has a horrible past that they must be punished for.
    – Isabel K

    Liked by 1 person

  2. EMMET S

    I agree with your interpretation and find it interesting. I agree with your claim about stories shaping the way people view you and made me question if the subjects are the “criminals”, because Absteni knows everything about everyone in the spiderhead and uses it to maniuplate people.

    Like

  3. Devin S.

    I really like your idea about the way the aspects of the characters’ backgrounds that are shared plays into the power dynamics in the story. Since Abnesti knows the criminal backgrounds of the characters, he has the power to leverage this information and manipulate who is seen as “good” to distract from the moral ambiguity of his own actions.

    Like

  4. Mirabella V.

    I completely agree with what you wrote. It really drew my attention in at the start and I made connections to both the story and real life situations. I think that it also goes along with the question if people can really change. Yes the people in here were criminals at some point in their life, but when put in this situation there is no way to know what might have happened to them in the future, if they would have made a better life for themselves. Instead we see Abnesti putting himself in high power while the reader can see that he obviously does not care for other people.

    Like

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