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Character Analysis of "Lust": how the author creates a helpless character.

Ruby3561 3 / 2  
Nov 6, 2008   #1
I don't have a conclusion. We are also required to have three critical sources other than the text. I have yet to fill in some of the Parenthetical Documentation. It was done in quite a rush and is due tonight, so any help would be appreciated, including help with focus, organization, develpment, style (sophisticated sentence structure?), mechanics, and relationship to sources.

In the short story "Lust" by Susan Minot, the author creates and develops the main character differently than many authors do. The protagonist is not developed by depicting a physical appearance, but is developed partially through her relationship with other characters, and is predominately created by her own feelings and actions. The narrator (also the main character) is not identified, but is nameless and faceless, and the author uses this, as well as simile, to build the character. Using all of these, the author creates a heavily conflicted character that is both incredibly helpless and emotionally removed.

We do not know what the main character looks like, but we do know how she thinks and feels. And while "Lust" is more of an interior monologue, the narrator does share with the reader her relationships with others (who are predominately male), as well as brief encounters with her house-mother and headmaster. According to Robert M. Luscher, in Minot's collection Lust and Other Stories "her female protagonists' instincts lead them in directions contrary to fulfillment, toward self-centered and distracted men threatened by commitment" (1688).

In the beginning, she does not talk about how she feels, and her sexual encounters have almost no meaning to us; it looks like an itemized list of conquests given with a seemingly indifferent shrug of the shoulders. As the reader, we are proven otherwise as she recounts her tale. We learn exactly why she is driven to these men: for gratification. Each experience with a boy has been given its own small, irregular paragraph. These descriptions prove to be very choppy as well, and it is suggested that "Minot uses fragmentation and white space to mirror how fragmented and empty the narrator feels" (Joseph).

"During these encounters," Janet Ellerby agrees, "the narrator is usually emotionally removed from the experience. For example, when Tim returns to her after closing the door, he finds merely a body waiting on the rug" (2477). This shows how helpless she is to the men in her life, and how emotionally fragmented she has become. She also admits her helplessness, albeit indirectly, in a few ways "For a long time I had Phillip on the brain," she admits. "The less they notice you, the more you got them on the brain" (Minot 350). She even admits that she was good at certain things, including Whiffle Ball as a child, but even back then the boys would tie up her legs until she showed them her underpants. Even as she grew older, sex was still in the way. It would interfere with her skills in math, painting, and still, sports, because it dampened her ambition to the point that sex would be all she could think about. .

The descriptions of the authority figures in the narrators life also create the feeling of an emotional distance. Not only is her family uninvolved, she makes herself seem to be disinterested in them as well. "Parents never really know what's going on," she tells us. "especially when you're away at school most of the time"(Minot 350 ). No one at the prestigious boarding school seems care. The school doctor "gave out the pill like aspirin". The headmaster tells her he doesn't care what she does as long as she didn't do it in public. The house-mother treats them to her perfect ideologies about finding true love. But no one seems to care about her (the narrator), and in fact, they enable her helplessness. "She is alienated from her parents and teachers, holding them in contempt for their naïveté about who she is and what she does" (2477). At one point she realizes how detached she is and asks the boy she is with who he is. And she even tells him that enough is enough. But the pattern doesn't change. She only begins to feel a sinking disparity.

Later in the novel, she begins to realize how the constant feeling of sex and being used makes her feel: "There'd be times when you overdid it. You'd get carried away. All the next day, you'd be in a total fog, delirious, absent minded, crossing the street and nearly getting run over." She furthers this feeling by her use of simile. Many times she compares herself to a harmless creature: "you'd put your nose to his neck and feel like a squirrel" (PD). "Through these comparisons the narrator is revealing that she feels small and inconsequential. Sex does not empower her; in fact, it has the opposite effect" (Joseph).If she feels off-kilter it is described as "piece of pounded veal" The narrator uses other figurative language to explain how helpless and detached she feels. After the act, she becomes "a cave, filled so absolutely with air, or with a sadness that wouldn't stop" (PD). Robert Luscher explains that "she melts easily into sensual abandon, although the results of her encounters gradually shift ... to the feeling that she is 'sinking in muck'" (1688).

Minot characterizes her anguish and detachment with immediacy only at the very end of the story. She continues to use metaphor, but her writing style becomes less fragmented, signaling the ultimate realization of truth for the narrator. "After sex, you curl up like a shrimp, something deep inside you ruined, slammed in a place that sickens at slamming, and slowly you fill up with an overwhelming sadness, an elusive gaping worry. You don't try to explain it, filled with the knowledge that it's nothing after all, everything filling up finally and absolutely with death" (355). The main character has realized all of this, but by then it is too late and she remains helpless still. The fact that the narrator has realized this doesn't change much. She learned that it s easier to open your legs than your heart. The narrator has proven to herself that she is just as fragmented as ever. She still does everything they want, knowing its wrong. It's no surprise to her that after the "briskness of loving" his mild surprise is something she's known all along. She "seems to have disappeared" (Minot 355).

Thank you.
EF_Team5 - / 1,586  
Nov 6, 2008   #2
Good afternoon.

You've got a great essay here; I've only got a few comments.

Who is the "we" you refer to? How many people are writing the paper? If you are talking about readers, you should call them "readers" or the "audience."

Make sure that the beginning of your sentences (including those in quotations) are capitalized. For instance, "harmless creature: "Y ou'd put your nose to his neck and feel like a squirrel" (PD)..." Unless, of course, it was written originally in lower case in the quote.

Avoid using contractions in formal academic writing.

The piece seems well organized and it flows well. The citations are supported by your content, and the two meld together easily. The sentences look good, as do your paragraph structures. Once you've got your conclusion tacked on, you'll have a very good piece. Nice work.

Moderator, EssayForum.com
OP Ruby3561 3 / 2  
Nov 6, 2008   #3
Thank you. I've changed the we to readers, and have worked out a conclusion, though it is rough. I'm trying to flesh it out for a good ending.

I appreciate your input.

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