The reality or fiction behind the words on a page in a piece of literature.
Like our human lives, within a story lies a beginning, a middle, and eventually a ending, however, with every story there is something that lies beneath, the letters that form on the piece of what was once a virgin sheet of paper- the setting, the plot, the characters, the point of view, and most importantly, the theme. Without these elements any piece of literature does not have any life, and there will not be a story to start with. Though each of these elements are important aspects to the creation of a body of a piece of literature, they are also different. Each of the elements represent an arm, a leg, a lung, and even a heart to what eventually becomes something unique and beautiful, without one the body of literature would not flow correctly. However, each of these elements share one piece of common ground, the blood that keeps the body of literature alive- the theme.
Within our literature course we studied a number of poems, authors, short stories, and plays all of them possessed these elements that are needed in order for a piece of literature to survive. There were three pieces of literature that continued to grasp my attention throughout this semester: “Shiloh by: Bobbie Ann Mason”, “Astronomer’s Wife by: Kay Boyle”, and “In the Orchard by Muriel Stuart”. At the surface of these pieces of literature it does not seem like they have anything in common other then their sensual undertones that the authors seem to have float in the air like peddles falling from a flower on a tree. However, there is much more to these stories then what may be perceived.
As an audience, in order to fully understand these pieces of literature we must first glance at the story of the author. The author of Shiloh, Bobbie Ann Mason, focuses her writings on where she began- her home in Kentucky. She also writes about what a lot of people take for granted- knowledge and experience. The author of Astronomer’s Wife, Kay Boyle, focuses her writings on a human’s need for love, as well as the forces that oppress us. Finally, the author of In the Orchard, Muriel Stuart, focuses her writings on sexual politics and does not have much information on her life at all.
After taking a glance at the author, as an audience it is much easier to understand the setting of a story. For example, the story Shiloh is set in what seems to be a rural town that really does not have much going on, which could very well be much like the town that the author Bobbie Ann Mason grew up in. This enables the audience to imagine a small house, within a small town with a rig parked in the dirt driveway. Another example is the Astronomer’s Wife. The setting for this story is much different, because it is set in what sounds to me to be the mid to late 1800s. The descriptions that the author Kay Boyle gave played a very important part in creating the setting for the story, without those descriptions of the house, and the outside the audience would be lost. The final example is the setting for In the Orchard which to me is simply the title itself, because, as an audience I would imagine that the couple was having the whole discussion in an actual orchard.
After creating the setting of the story an author must then create a sequence of events for the piece of literature to follow- the plot of the story. In the story Shiloh, the plot is simply the following: Norma Jean spends a lot of time at home by herself. Her husband, Leroy is a trucker that spends a lot of time away from home until he has a bad accident in his rig, which does not enable him drive. This causes him to stay at home drinking beer, smoking weed, and creating the layout for a log cabin that he thinks his wife would love, but she really does not. By staying home he notices that his wife is not the same. His noisy mother in law keeps pushing Leroy and Norma to go to and visit a Civil War ground, which neither of them wish to do, but do anyway. It is on this trip when Norma tells him she no longer wants to be with him. The story is then left with and open ending for the reader to decide what happens with the couple.
The plot of the Astronomer’s Wife is similar to that of Shiloh. The astronomer is so caught up in is work that he forgets to give his wife attention. This in return leaves his wife open to other attention received from a plumber. The story ends with her excepting the offer given by the plumber to go down into the area that he has to work on and once again leaves the audience with the idea that there is an romantic relationship that is about to begin between the plumber and the astronomer’s wife.
The plot of In the Orchard is quite interesting. Instead of a romantic rampage with another interesting individual like the author seems to express in the Astronomer’s Wife it is an apparent argument between two lovers. One thinks that they are in love and the other does not. The relationship seems to consisted of a one night stand that one partner thought was real “love” and the other thought it was only “fun”. This ends with a kiss and an “I will see you again” which gives the illusion that the one night stand was not really just fun and games.
Along with the plot the author must create characters to make sure that the plot is carried out correctly. These characters can take on different points of views, and attitudes that make them as unique as the piece of literature. For example, In the Orchard, the two lovers both have their own point of view of what the author portrays to be a sexual relationship. One believes that the other loves them and the other just thinks that it is all just fun and games. Each of these aspects makes each of the nameless characters unique because of the attitude they possess. Another example is in the story Shiloh the character Leroy is a once rig driving, weed smoking, couch potato, that continues to go over log cabin layouts for a log cabin that he wishes to have. However, the man has no communication whatsoever with his wife Norma, who does not even know whether or not she knows or loves him anymore. To add to the drama within their relationship, the protagonist, Norma’s mother keeps things heated between the married couple. All of these characters make the plot come alive within the story of Shiloh. The final example is within the Astronomer’s Wife. There are again three characters of importance: the astronomer, the astronomer’s wife, and the plumber. The astronomer is so caught up in his astronomy that he gives his wife no attention, but orders that he gives out. The man is so caught up in his job that he can not even take care of a job such as the plumbing for his household and his wife has to handle it. After which steps in an element of surprise- the plumber. The description of the plumber is not one that I would normally imagine about a plumber here in modern day United States. The description of the plumber caused me to imagine him to be more like a muscular, lean, athlete then a pot bellied, over weight man, with his butt crack showing when he bends down. In addition to this, the author created a sense of mystery with the plumber, which caused the wife to follow him. I must say, that I was caught off guard with this part, however, the characters, along with the other elements are what kept me flipping the pages of the story until I reached the ending.
After the setting, plot, and characters, have been created the author must then establish what point of view they are going to have their piece of literature come from. For example, in the Astronomer’s Wife the piece of literature is taken from the point of view of the astronomer’s wife. In Shiloh, the point of view is in third person. Meaning the view is taken from someone other then the characters themselves. The final example is unique, because In the Orchard, the point of view is taken from both of the characters in the poem, which is very interesting for the audience to discover as they read.
Finally, after the author has created the setting, plot, characters, and the point of view, they must add the blood line to the body of the piece of literature- the theme. As an audience, it is easy to notice that between these three pieces of literature there have been elements that have been similar, different, or somewhat the same: the setting, plot, characters, and point of views. However, each of these pieces of literature possesses a similar main theme; longing to be loved. For example, in the Astronomer’s Wife her husband does not give her any attention which is what she desires. As I read the story, I personally could feel the emotions of loneliness and longing that the astronomer’s wife probably felt. Another example of this theme lies within the poem In the Orchard. The lovers in this poem have two different views on love. Though they feel differently, they both desire to have some type of love, whether it is falling in love or loving the game of tolling with love. The final example of this theme of longing to be loved is in the story Shiloh. The wife and the husband though they had grown apart, had different views on where their lives should be, and were somewhat frustrated and baffled with one another, both longed for something-love.
So, what brings about this sense of needing to be loved that we as human beings feel? Taking a look at each of these pieces of literature shows another theme: a void. Each of these pieces of literature portrayed a void that needed to be filled through the setting, plot, characters, and point of view. Each of the characters within these pieces of literature were searching for something more then what they saw right in front of their eyes. Each of the situations within these pieces of literature was somewhat similar but still each possessed its own void that needed to be filled. The authors of these pieces of literature surprisingly never give an answer to whether or not those voids were eventually filled. The authors just leave the audience in their imaginations wondering what happened between each couple. In addition, the audience is left to ponder on whether or not in the end the characters got that nagging feeling of loneliness and desire to feel the embrace of love’s arms filled.
As an audience, you have surely noticed that, like our human lives, within a story lies a beginning, a middle, and eventually a ending, however, with every story there is something that lies beneath, the letters that form on the piece of what was once a virgin sheet of paper- the setting, the plot, the characters, the point of view, and most importantly, the theme. Without these elements any piece of literature does not have any life, and there will not be a story to start with. Though each of these elements are important aspects to the creation of a body of a piece of literature, they are also different. However, though these elements are different, each of these elements possesses a place of common ground- a theme. Without a theme none of these elements would have the blood that a body of a piece of literature needs in order to survive.
DiYanni, R., Literature Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, McGraw Hill (2007)