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Short Stories - Analysis of Power (ontario English Grade 12)

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“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators. “

P. J. O'Rourke, 1947 -

While reading “Revenge Gardening” and “Bambinger”, one cannot help but notice the powerful albeit underlying theme of control within the stories. The authors use this theme, developing it as the plot carries on and the characters transform to create a sense of dynamacy and interest in the readers mind. The possession of control by characters in literature rarely remains static. It is always changing hands and calibers as the stories progress to keep the reader interested and guessing. Control has always been a popular theme in literature and this essay will illustrate its prominence and development throughout the chosen stories.

The above quotation is relevant to the theme of control because it illustrates how easy it is for control to be obtained. It shows that as soon as something is controlled by a seemingly ultimate power, there is always a way to recover the control. This gives a similar situation as the use of control in each of the two stories; control, although seemingly unshakable, is suddenly at question or risk of being lost when even the weakest of characters approaches. This gives the feeling of unpredictability in stories in which this is the dominant theme.

In the story “Revenge Gardening”, the powerful theme of control is what drives the plot from start to finish. The mother, spoiled by the control she has had in the neighborhood for so long, is thwarted by the new residents next door when they decide not to accept her curtains. The curtains are a symbol and represent the power and control of Matthew’s mother. The way the theme of control is handled in this story by the characters is how it is transferred during the plot’s battle to maintain it.

“I wheeled my bike out of the garage and stopped dead on the driveway. Along our property line straggled a white, plastic, foot-high fence with plastic chains looped between its ‘posts’. Sections of it, poorly jointed, leaned drunkenly in different directions. My mother, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, wearing flowered gardening gloves was pounding in the last post with a small rock”, (Elements of English, 68)

This quotation shows us an example of how one of the attacks used by the mother is a grasp for control. By putting pressure on and angering the other side, she thinks she will be able to gain back her feeling of control. The author introduces the fence as a pitiful and insulting device of the mother’s to give the character a feeling of control over the situation. As the situation escalates, the devices of both the mother and the ladies next to her increase in impact, and therefore increase in how much control each of them will feel that they have.

“”It is a joke, isn’t it? Did your dad put it up?” My face remained grave. “Your mom? She’s going to take it down, right?””, (70)

As each character responds to the other’s attack, control is shifted towards the one who has made the most recent move. This develops throughout the story and, as each attack becomes more offensive, the amount of control fought over increases until the final move. As the final move, the ladies next door to Matthew’s family planted a ravaging tree that would, given time, destroy their entire property. This final move ‘planted’ the control in their hands until the ending of the story. Throughout this story as the plot continues, control develops in not only how much is at stake for the characters, but who is controlling it. This is how the theme of control develops through “Revenge Gardening”.

Throughout the story of “Bambinger”, several elements of control are shown by the author. With the introduction of Herr Bambinger into the story, the control that the boy possesses is suddenly diminished to an ever lower lever that it had been previously. Herr Bambinger then begins a battle for control with the boy, through several confrontations, in his attempt to regain the feeling of control he had lost since his flight from the war in Europe. As the plot continues, we learn more about Bambinger’s history and more about

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