23 February 2013
"By and By" by Amy Bloom
"By and By" by Amy Bloom is told through a first-person narrative from the perspective of the deceased protagonist's roommate. Though the narrator shifts in and out of past and present tense, the story is simple. Anne (the protagonist) went on a camping trip with her boyfriend Teddy, and Eugene Trask (the antagonist) suddenly appeared to murder Teddy, then he kidnapped Anne, resulting in her missing for four days. In the end, Eugene tried to rape her near Lake Pleasant, and when she tried to defend herself, it gave Eugene a reason to turn and kill her instead. Her body was found near an old mine near Speculator by two kids searching for gold and garnet.
If there was a word to describe this story, it would be "death," or any word along the same context. Upon hearing that word, goosebumps pop up all over my arms, shivers run down my spine, and I get this weird taste in my mouth. Unfortunately, that word, and words like it (dead, die, killed, etc.) appeared about sixteen times, give or take a few, in the text. This forced me to take a closer look at the meaning of death and what it means to me. For some reason, I have always taken death lightly; I never questioned what would or could happen afterwards, since I am confident about where I will end up. Reading this story made me aware of how real death is and how much it can affect loved ones during its aftermath. The narrator's descriptions and thoughts about death, Anne's story, and Eugene's actions, are the aspects of the story that I will focus on to support my argument on how this story changed my perception of death.
Before analyzing the main characters of this story, I should state my former perception of death. Because I am a Christian, I have always known where I will end up. Therefore, the thought of death or dying never really made me afraid. I know that Heaven is my final resting place, so I have never been sensitive about it. I know that death is unavoidable and inevitable and because I know this fact, I have always been dismissive about it. However, after reading this story, I noticed that I began to care more about death. "What if?" questions are constantly flooding my mind and I am now doing my best to spend time with my family members before their times are up. I know that God can take them away from me at any time. With this thought in my mind, I will proceed to analyzing the narrator, Anne, and Eugene, and their connections with my perception of death.
We are never told what the name of Anne's roommate is, though one can automatically assume that she is female and is similarly-aged to Anne because she was her roommate. She does not seem to be a very major character in the story, but she still has a lot of depth to her character. She is round because she is not an archetype, nor is she one-dimensional. Evidence of this dotted throughout the story, in the instances where she speaks about death and when she was interviewed by the police in regards to Anne's disappearance (Bloom 496-497). However, we know that she is a static character in the story. She mentions that, "it was entirely due to Anne that I [she] was able to walk through the world like a normal person (Bloom 497)," which is evidence that Anne helped her change in the past, but not during the story. Thus, the narrator is a static character. We know from her narration that she cares a lot about Anne and her family, even though she was just a roommate, not a family member. It is clear that Anne's death, which is when the story is set right after, took a huge toll on the narrator and her thoughts because while she tells the story, she often shifts in and out of past and present as though she is thinking erratically and randomly.
In the first sentence, she already stereotypes and generalizes death by stating that, "Every death is violent (Bloom 494)." She describes what the human eye does in...