Choice and Circumstance

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Choice and Circumstance

What happens when the life we choose for ourselves conflicts with the life that is

chosen for us? “Shoplifters,” by Maura Stanton, describes a group of shoplifters whose

circumstances speak to the theme of isolation. They are alone, stealing by choice to fill

the void they each share--a lack of relationship with another human. “Night Waitress,”

by Lynda Hull, describes a woman working the night shift by choice. The waitress

complains to herself about the isolation she feels from her decision to take this job. She

too longs for relationship, but her situation makes her incapable of fostering any sort of

companionship. The structures of the two works share a similar pattern but in a reverse

order. One poem goes from focusing on a group to focusing on the individual; the

second poem does the opposite. In both works, routine intersects with reality--usually

represented by job related tasks against human nature and impulse. Then one must

ask if either of these categories are the result of personal choice or involuntary

circumstance. The poems “Shoplifters” and “Night Waitress” illustrate the contrast

between choice and circumstance in the context of relationship, structure, and routine

versus reality.

The sense of loneliness and longing for relationship is so strong and easily

distinguished in both works. The shoplifters circumstances forces them to steal so

that they can foster or mend some type of relationship in their lives. All characters but one choose to steal something that will benefit some other influence in their lives.

“Night Waitress” is a different story. Her choice is determining her circumstance.

She longs and feels the need for relationship but chooses not to do anything about it

because of her job.

The lack of a male figure is also another common factor of the two works. Not

as easily recognized, but it is there....
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