It was so hard to choose what passage to use for this assignment! I found four examples; one is from the short story A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury, another from the The Martian Chronicles also by Ray Bradbury, and two from The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. I am a big fan of these two authors, though I haven’t read these stories in particular, so I soon as I opened the books I immediately fell in love with them. They all explore the themes of time and/or place and have plenty of material for interpretation. Because I feel that they are all well qualified for the assignment, I am choosing one from The Dispossessed simply because it brings forth the most questions and I can write more about it.
Shevek submitted to this and other injections in silence. He had no right to suspicion or protest. He had yielded himself up to these people; he had given up his birthright of decision. It was gone, fallen away from him along with his world, the world of the Promise, the barren stone.
The doctor spoke again, but he did not listen.
For hours or days he existed in a vacancy, a dry and wretched void without past or future. The walls stood tight about him. Outside them was the silence. His arms and buttocks ached from injections; he ran a fever that never quite heightened to delirium but left him in a limbo between reason and unreason, no man’s land. Time did not pass. There was no time. He was time: he only. He was the river, the arrow, the stone. But he did not move. The thrown rock hung still at midpoint. There was no day or night. Sometimes the doctor switched the light off, or on. There was a clock set in the wall by the bed; its pointer moved from one to another of the twenty figures of the dial, meaningless.(194 words)
(K. Le Guin, 1974, p.7-8)
There are some main points I’ll be looking for in the text, though I will focus mostly on the themes of time and place. I will print out the text and write down my first impressions and notes. Then I will write down all the questions I can think of about the text, using the previous exercises as a guideline, and begin the first draft.
Points mentioned in the assignment
- Point of view
- Language and language techniques
Additional points to analyse
- Poetic devices
- Who is the narrator?
- Who might ‘these people’ be?
- Why did he ‘yield’ to them?
- He says that he has given up his free will but he was the one to make the choice to give it up in the first place. Why did he give it up? Why is he so depressed about it? Might it be that it is not what he expect?
- What are these injections? Are they for his well-being or not?
- Is the story happening in the future? Is this a world different than ours?
- He says he is leaving his world behind. Where is he and where is he going? If he is leaving his world, then this means he is going to another. Space travel?
- His refers to his world both as a ‘world of Promise’ and as a ‘barren stone’. These two statements are contradictory. What might he mean by this?
- Is he in a prison now?
- He finds himself without place and time both externally and internally. How so?
- What does he mean that time does not pass? What does he mean that he is time?
- Why does he compare himself to ‘the river, the arrow, the stone’? What do these things represent? What is their relationship with time?
- Does time work differently in this place? There is no day or night. Does this mean that there are no windows or that there is literally no day and night?
Structure of essay:
(2) first impressions / tone, mood, how it makes me feel
(3) main character, narrator POV (Who is the narrator? third person limited point of view)
(4) clues to plot and setting (what? when? where? future, space, strangers, the unknown)
(5) freedom of choice -> connect to time and place (his past decision has brought him to the present)
(6) time and place (and lack thereof)
(7) poetic devices and their effect / language techniques (effect on mood, time and place)