Character and Reader

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Sample Essay One In the story “Yellow Fish,” the main character is never directly described or mentioned. The reader must inference everything except their name, Anu. The author creates the character through reflections and other various techniques. Throughout the story, the writer uses very choppy sentences, as well as fragments, to represent Anu’s stream of consciousness. By doing this, the writer gives her a timid, scarred personality. By limiting the sentence structure, Ambai indirectly leads the reader to believe that Anu is depressed, and has faced tragedy in her life. The author does this to foreshadow the reflection on Anu’s loss of her child. The reflection itself also serves purpose to the author. Anu says, “The mouth of the urn. Open it” (54). This statement is indicative of some level of shock Anu is experiencing. By giving Anu these lines, Ambai reveals to the reader that Anu is absolutely traumatized by this occurrence, and felt as if the ashes in the urn were somehow still connected to the lost child. The author reveals this instance to portray to the reader whyAnu is the way that she has portrayed her to this point in the story. Finally, Ambai uses the yellow fish to show Anu’s sense of closure. By giving the fish similar characteristics to Anu’s lost daughter, the author creates an idea of salvation. By saving the fish, and sending it out into the sea, Ambai conveys to the audience that Anu feels her daughter is in a better place now. The fish takes “an arrogant leap” (79), which finalizes the idea that Anu feels that way. The author provides this closure to provide similar closure to the story. With Anu’s revitalization, the story comes to an end. Ambai creates the character Anu through a series of choppy sentences, a reflection as well as a metaphor. She takes her readers on a journey through tragedy, depression, and ultimately closure. These traits make Anu relatable and make the reader incredibly sympathetic to her. Sample Essay Two Tamil writer Ambai’s “Yellow Fish” is ostensibly a short story about a woman on a summer outing at the beach. Seeing a discarded fish unsuitable for commercial use, the narrator, in an act of empathy and concern, convinces one of the local fishermen to return the dying animal back to its ocean home. In characterizing this empathy of the narrator, however, Ambai makes a larger claim for an interconnection between all living things. Paradoxically, the narrator’s empathy is established initially through setting rather than indirect characterization. The reader perceives events through the eyes of the narrator before the reader ever realizes the story is a first person narration; indeed, the first use of the “I” pronoun does not occur until the approximate midpoint of the narrative (32). Description is revealed in short declarative sentences that place the reader into the sense world of the protagonist. Notice, for example, how “the eye is compelled by the sea alone” (4), or “the saris press upon the eyes gently” (25-26), as the reader, in at least some sense, becomes the narrator, or at least her eyes and ears as she traverses the beach. Even more explicit is the introduction of the second person “you,” used to describe what the reader sees (“fish filling the

nets” [15-16]). Thus, the reader is attuned to seeing the world through the gaze of another, perceives it as the narrator, allowing insight into the world she inhabits. This is important because this is precisely what the narrator does when she imagines the pain of the fish. She does this in a manner similar to the opening paragraphs, paragraphs in which the reader has been forced into the world of another. In the narrator’s case, however, she connects the death throes of the fish with the death of her own child. The fish is described as a mouth that “gasps and closes ... [shuddering] and [tossing] on the hot sand” (34-35), just as her own premature child would “open and close her mouth, as if suckling” (44-45) in the...
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