Choose one of the elements of literature, listed below. In the space below, write a 500-600 word essay comparing and contrasting a literary element in "Sixteen" by Maureen Daly and "Through the Tunnel" by Doris Lessing.
Elements of Literature
-point of View
I am hoping for some critical feedback on whether my writing makes sense and flows well.
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In the stories "Sixteen" and "Through the Tunnel" both authors use a theme of characters wanting to prove themselves to someone. However, the differences of these two stories becomes apparent when who the characters are trying to prove themselves to. In "Sixteen" the main character seems to be attempting to prove herself to the reader, that she is smart enough and popular enough to be telling this story. But in "Through the Tunnel" Jerry tries to prove himself to the foreign boys he looks up to and also to himself.
Throughout each story, the characters try to prove something to themselves or other people. In Maureen Daly's short story "Sixteen" the narrator is clearly trying to prove to the reader that she is smart and popular. A very clear example of this occurs at the beginning of the story when the narrator is describing herself. Daly writes, "I mean, I want you to understand from the beginning that I'm not really so dumb. I know what a girl should do and what she shouldn't. I get around." When she says, "I want you to understand," she is clearly directing the statement at us, the reader. As she goes on to say that she is not really that dumb, her message clearly becomes an attempt to convince us that she is smart. Finally, when she says, "I get around," it appears as though she is trying to tell the reader that she is popular. Combining what has just been learned from the narrator's statements, She is trying to prove to someone her ethos: that she is smart enough and popular enough to be telling us a story about a boy.
In Doris Lessing's short story "Through the Tunnel" the main character named Jerry meets a group of older, foreign boys hanging around in a wild looking bay full of rocks. He sees them swim through an underwater tunnel. When Jerry climbs onto the rock with the foreign boys and they all shout greetings to which Jerry cannot respond to, Lessing writes, "They understood that he was a foreigner strayed from his own beach, and they proceeded to forget him." The moment the boys realize he is a foreigner, he is out of sight and out of mind, no longer anything they want to care about. Jerry takes notice of this, and desperately wants to prove himself to them. Jerry makes a goal to swim through the tunnel, wanting to impress the older boys. However, as the story goes on, Jerry does not see the foreign boys again, but still possesses a motivation to swim through the tunnel. Lessing illustrates this well when Jerry is timing how long he can hold his breath, and she writes, "He was incredulous and then proud to find he could hold his breath without strain for two minutes." At this point in the story, Jerry has not seen the boys by the rock for days, and has been relentlessly training to swim through the tunnel. Having not seen the boys for so long, he must rely on another motivation to have the will to continue his training. This motivation is himself. Jerry is now locked in a struggle with himself, and finds the will to continue in the achievements he makes. An example of such an achievement is him being able to hold his breath without strain for two minutes. What started as proving himself to the older boys has now become Jerry proving his abilities to himself.
The short stories "Sixteen" and "Through the Tunnel" are similar in the fact that both characters try to prove something to someone, but different because those someones are different in the two stories. For the narrator in "Sixteen" it is us, the reader. For Jerry in "Through the Tunnel," they are older boys and later on himself. Also, when the motivations of both characters are examined, some similarities appear between them. An example of one of these similarities is what caused the character to feel a need to prove themselves. In both stories, this cause is rejection. Jerry was rejected by the older boys, and thus wanted to prove himself. The narrator in "Sixteen" is telling us a story about rejection by a boy, and feels the need to prove herself to us, which is that she is smart and popular. Another similarity between the stories is that the people who rejected the main characters are only present once in the story. For the narrator, the boy who skated with her and never called is only present once. For Jerry, the foreign boys who originally motivated him are only seen once, and never present again. This similarity is significant because it allows the motivations of the characters to evolve and not remain focused on the people that rejected them. Because the narrator never saw the boy again, she didn't feel a need to prove herself to him, only a need to prove herself to us. Because Jerry only saw the foreign boys once, he later felt the need to prove his abilities to himself.
While both stories are starkly different in subject, both main characters try to prove themselves to someone. In "Sixteen," it is the reader. In "Through the Tunnel," it is the foreign boys and later himself. The second similarity between the stories is that the people that rejected the main characters never present themselves again, leading to both characters changing their motivations throughout the story.