Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Monica Wood - Disappearing (Overview - Part 3)
This is part three of the overview to Monica Wood's short story "Disappearing". It covers the story's point of view and symbolism. 

If you want to read an introduction which includes a link to the story, a short biography of the author, the setting of the story as well as the characters that interact in it, click here. Part two deals with the plot and the "growth" process through which Wood intimates how destructive others can be and how -- as traumatizers -- they can permanently stunt development (to read that, click here.)

For literary analyses of poems and other stories, click on the image below.

Monica Wood - Disappearing

Point of view

  • 1st person narrator
    • reader learns everything that’s going on based on narrator’s statements (closer bond is present between narrator + reader)

    • narrator’s descriptions need to be filtered because of the fact that she is so self-conscious
      • she says blondes smirk when she swims or lowers herself into the pool but are they smirking because of her or is the narrator tying everything that everyone around her does or says to her obesity

      • narrator’s descriptions of others focus on their appearance; she lacks ability to see people as a whole; all she mentions are drawbacks (the supportive redhead instructor never gets a positive comment from the narrator; no warmth is shown towards her)

      • both these facts bring to the forefront the thoughts and feelings overweight people who are stigmatized by society suffer from (but in no way lessens the burden of guilt others around the narrator bear with their callous behavior)


  • swimming pool

    • if you read about dream interpretations, an indoor swimming pool suggests
      • introversion
      • dealing with your innermost thoughts
      • feeling pressure from others to change

    • dreaming of diving into a pool symbolizes change that is about the occur 

    • the narrator in this story isn’t simply dreaming though: subconsciously, she feels 
      • the change that needs to take place
      • the pressure others exert on her 
      • the necessity for her to delve deep into her own thoughts and emotions

    • the pool can also be seen as a medium through which the narrator is transformed / destroyed

  • water

    • one of the most complex symbols
      • cleanses, tied to the notion of purity
      • brings about life: tied to the amniotic fluid in the womb
      • basic element of the human body: approximately 50%-70% depending on age, gender, weight, etc
      • basic element on our planet: approximately 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water (i.e. water nurtures all living creatures)
      • its surface is the border under which deeper things lurk, therefore water can be seen to symbolize intuition, the subconscious, deep reflection

    • according to Christianity: it is the medium of rebirth used to cleanse us and put us on the path towards salvation
      • baptisms serve to introduce new members into a congregation of like-minded believers
      • baptisms are name-giving rituals that confer an identity 

    • according to the ancient Greeks:
      • versatility of water make it a symbol of transformation (i.e. water can take the form of vapor, ice, or is simply a liquid)

    • Native Americans: symbol of life since it was a precious commodity

    • Ancient Egyptians: their dependence on the Nile made them revere water as a source of life

    • interesting also is the fact that water is at times tied to love:
      • Aphrodite/Venus was born in the foam of the sea around Kythira, Greece and arrived in Paphos, Cyprus whence she rose
      • the ancient Egyptian word for water (uat) also meant emerald (note the swimming instructor with the emerald swimsuit) which was connected to romantic love

    • in the story itself, for the narrator the water
      • gives her strength: she is able to refuse her husband’s advances
      • renews her interest in others (men): it brings back human feelings she had long lost
      • echoes the silence in her life: she has no one to talk to who will truly listen and empathize
      • sculpts her anew: makes her look a different person on the outside
      • purifies her: she comes out of the pool with a “naked” face

      • protects her from the world: it makes her disappear which is her ultimate goal (she is tired of having to put up with everyone judging, berating, ostracizing her)
      • calms her: this is the only place she can float and vanish in the silence of the water
The water purifies the narrator from the disgust she might be feeling about herself. By taking away her "impurities" (the terrible things others say about her that she feels she is stuck with), she is able to transform herself on the outside while also change her inner core as she regains her strength of character and reclaims her femininity.   
However, once she realizes that people around her essentially don't change (the silence and darkness remain in her life since no one pays attention to her anymore even though she is wasting away before their eyes), she prefers to vanish altogether and become one with the water that has been the only constant during the entire period of her metamorphosis.


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