Monday, May 25, 2009

"Twirler" by Jane Martin

You can read this story anthologized here:
http://books.google.com/books?id=eEY0wIVuYdIC&pg=PA37&lpg=PA37&dq=twirler+by+jane+martin&source=bl&ots=j0T6y4OHLN&sig=n2_Vm1rHyh_tu4VAAYH1jRuRY6A&hl=en&ei=WQ4bSvyLBI-ctgO0_-zWCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5#PPA37,M1

Martin’s story struck me because she managed to cram such a great deal of emotion, action, and exposition into such a short space. I was also interested to see how Martin used the dramatic convention of a monologue to create an entire story.

At the beginning, the tone seems very innocent – the young woman describes how when she was six her mother made her a baton by sawing off a broom handle. While I do not have experience baton twirling (and, I am guessing, neither does the majority of the story’s readers) Martin drew me into the story immediately with her description of the homemade baton. It brought to mind the many homemade Halloween outfits, theater costumes, and doll-house accessories of my own childhood. However, as the story progresses, Martin slowly and subtly darkens the mood, until we suddenly come to realize that twirling is not just a fun hobby for this girl. Martin builds this epiphany through the character’s statements: first, she describes the “prejudice” twirlers face, then mentions how with a baton you can “draw on the sky,” and eventually says twirling is the “throwing up of yourself to God.”

Still, it comes as a shock when, on the final page, she describes the “God throwers” gathering for a religious-type ceremony with razor-laced batons, and the twirlers purposefully cutting themselves as an offering to God. Because of the story’s structure as a monologue, I felt an odd combination of being one with the character and yet also being separate from her – like I had been drawn into her psyche, and yet was also watching her from a distance. By the end, my heart was racing and I felt a bit sick to my stomach. The scene of the “God throwers” was so vivid that I couldn’t help but picture it in striking detail, for example the image of the red blood on the white snow. For me, “good” stories are ones that strike me in this unexplainable, visceral way – the stories I “feel in my gut” – and this was definitely one of them.

7 comments:

  1. I teach this story to boys. It's a tough sell. They don't quite get it. But I agree, it uses the monologue form beautifully.

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