Manley Pointer is a Very Smart Kim

The fake bible salesman who goes by Manley Pointer in Good Country People shows a lot of similarities to Kim, Brian’s stalker ex-girlfriend, in  A Conversation About Bread. To begin, Pointer is a little bit of a stalker himself. He has gathered information about the Hopewell family somehow. He even tells Mrs. Hopewell “you’re a good woman. Friends have told me” (4). Like Kim, Manley seems to have been stalking this family to learn information about them to manipulate Hulga. This is seen when he talks about having a heart condition and only a few years to live. He only lies about this because it gives him something in common with Hulga, who is in that exact situation. Another more important similarity is the fact that they were only interested in Brian and Hulga because of their disabilities. This is seen when at the end Manley reveals himself and mentions “One time I got a woman’s glass eye this way” (9). This shows that like Kim, Manley is interested in people with disabilities only because of their disabilities. Even worse, he connects the objects that they need to help them function by stealing from them. So while Kim was a stalker, Manley is a stalker and a thief.

What this all shows about Manely and Kim is that their characters are not able to mutually recognize other people. They both push the power dynamic of ABLE/disabled because they do not see those different from them as equals. As a result of seeing Hulga and Brian as less than them they do awful things like stalking and theft of things that they need. These two characters serve as examples of what not to do. If Kim and Manely had the ability to mutually recognize others these stories would be very different.

Abnesti’s Prison

Abnesti’s interactions with the patients provided another layer of complexity in Escape from Spider Head. Throughout the story when speaking with his patients Abnesti highlights his acts of kindness, especially when he is committing an act that seems inhumane and heartless. It can be concluded that for Jeff, Spiderhead represents his mental prison of guilt. For Abnesti, I think that Spiderhead represents his mental prison which stems from his inability to sympathize with others. On page 72, in regards to Heather’s death, Abnesti says, “I hated it. I’m a person. I have feelings.” Then later on page 73, he contradicts this statement with an emotionless and factual response to Jeff when Jeff asks if Rachel could die. Abnesti says, “Is it possible that the Darkenfloxx will kill Rachel? Sure. We have the Heather precedent.” This juxtaposition is used often in the story, and it emphasizes Abnesti’s use of manipulation to cover up his emotional downfalls. He is trapped in his commitment to “the mandates of science”(74). Abnesti cannot see the prisoners as people because of his own mental prison within Spider Head.

A Search for an Elephant and a Deeper Meaning

The ending of the Elephant Vanishes left me unsettled. I do not believe that the elephant simply vanished however, Haruki Murakami did not leave us with much to interpret. While I read this story I was continuously on the search for a deeper meaning. Since there was no satisfying ending I tried to look for something that would put me at ease.

I think one of the main themes in this story is balance. The author brings it up in two ways, the size of the elephant and the keeper at the end of the story and in the narrator’s life.

Balance also plays a role at the end when the keeper and elephant are described as being the same size. Physically they are balanced because they are the same size. I think this balance helps the elephant and keeper achieve mutual recognition. Aside from being balanced physically they have a relationship different than most that allows them to think of each other differently. The narrator almost describes this as an intimate relationship where they are able to communicate with each other on a different level. The keeper does not believe that he is superior to the elephant and ending the story with them as the same size reduces the differences between them leading them to mutual recognition.

The narrator’s life is all about balance. His profession is selling kitchens and his sales pitch is about how they need to be balanced. He goes to work, reads the entire newspaper, and observes the elephant. The elephant vanishing brings excitement to his life and becomes all he can think about. Someone in my class mentioned that in Japanese culture everyone wants to fit in. You want to conform instead of sticking out.

Since I was searching for a deeper meaning I think this is an interesting point. The author may be attempting to relate this to society and the desire to fit in. This story is not like any other story that I have read, an elephant vanishing into thin air is a pretty dramatic and unique event to occur and story to write about. With that in mind I think that it is very important that the author made the narrator’s life so consistent because he represents society and the elephant represents breaking out from the conformities of society. Although Murakami may have intended for the story to simply be about a vanishing elephant, this is a much more satisfying ending.

Like Kerosene in His Veins

Throughout the short story “Barn Burning”, the protagonist, Sarty, is faced with what seems to be an impossible conflict; how deep does blood really run? Saddled with an abusive father, he is constantly put into a position where he questions if staying true to his roots is the right decision. Rather early on in the story, after Abner strikes Sarty, he states, “You got to learn to stick to your own blood or you ain’t going to have no blood to stick to”. This exchange emphasizes the importance Abner hold regarding relation by blood. It also encompasses their father/son relationship quite accurately.

Due to the fact that this moral has been instilled in him for so long, Sarty feels a sense of responsibility towards his father. Even when mistreated, he chose to be compliant no matter how intensely his subconscious attempted to persuade him otherwise. A good example of this can be found on page 117 of the packet-155 of the story, where it states, “I could keep on, he thought. I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again. Only I can’t. I can’t,“. The powerlessness he faces is common place even in modern society. For a story written so long ago, it amazes me that many of the themes still occur within our generations. What does this say about how we have progressed, or regressed, as a society?