3 April 2013
Craft in Jason Helmandollar’s “Backwards Fall”
Jason Helmandollar’s “Backwards Fall” interests me because of the subject of the story. It is something I have always been sadly fascinated by because my grandpa had Alzheimer’s and it was so hard to watch such a wise man basically start acting like a baby. I want to study how the setting, description, speech, and action bring this story alive. This story has different sections of time, so I will discuss each element within each section.
The first section, when the female is 62, seems like the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. At first, the reader may think this lady is just old and can’t remember a simple song. The setting in this first section is in this couple’s living room. This is important because it is something the couple shares together and gives the reader a sense of home and comfort, all the while this old lady is forgetting something very simple. It took me back to when my grandpa had Alzheimer’s, it is very real. The description in this section is also very important because the narrator tells the reader many things through his descriptions. First, when the woman calls the man “dad”, that is very normal, because they have three children together and have been calling each other that for a while now. Second, this couple seems very much in love, especially when the narrator describes the song—maybe it represents the couple themselves. I think a pivotal part of speech in this section is when the woman says, “How could I have forgotten?” As if there should have been no way she could forget something that important and familiar to her. This line foreshadows the deterioration to come. The action here shows the reader that it must be in the early stages; she might not have even been diagnosed with anything yet, especially if she can still remember how to play the guitar.
The second section, the woman is 64, and she appears to have stayed the same, forgetting minor things. The setting in this section is again in the living room (at least that’s what it appears to be). The living room provides something in this story that the readers as well as the characters are familiar with—this creates tension because the woman should know her house very well, but forgets something so trivial. The description in this section lets the reader know that the couple is now aware that there is in fact a disease, and that they went to the doctors to confirm it. This creates tension because the couple is fighting against time, knowing that some day she will forget almost everything. That brings me to speech, when the woman asks, “What if one day I wake up and I’ve forgotten everything?” To which her husband responds, “Then I’ll just remind you of everything.” The speech in this section really shows the love between these two—although it will be hard and they are both so afraid of what will happen, they remain in love. The action works the same way here. He is ready to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. This creates tension because no matter how much he is willing to do for her, he cant fix her mind. At the end of this section, it seems that she has remembered what she wanted in the first place, which gives the reader hope.
In the third section, the reader starts to see that she is getting much worse. She is 65 here, but she thinks she is 48. The couple is again in the living room, something constant, which seems to contrast with the forgetfulness of the woman. The description lets the reader know that the couple has already went to the Grand Canyon, and the woman thinks she is a lot younger than she actually is. It creates tension and a sad feeling when the man remembers how she looked as she was riding a mule down the Grand Canyon. The speech here, as it has in other sections, proven the love the man has for his wife and created tension. This is especially true when he stops fighting her on the subject and tells her he’s sure...