Professor Colleen Dieckmann
25 March 2013
Personally, I love short stories. There is something paradoxically satisfying about a good short story, the way it uses far less words than its larger cousins to say just as much, if not more. “Gryphon” one of Charles Baxter’s collection of short stories first published in 1985,is immensely satisfying in just that way. The type of plot of this story is psychological; the time of work is the late twentieth century with a setting in Five Oaks, Michigan. Its characters are Tommy, Miss Ferenczi, Mr. Hibler, Carl Whiteside, Wayne, and Mrs. Mantei. This story is somehow short, but has a different kind of character that many of us would consider unusual. That character is Miss Ferenczi.
Miss Ferenczi is a new substitute teacher at a rural community of Five Oaks, Michigan. As her now students get to meet her, she is not just a new teacher; she is also a strange lady who brings them strange yet fascinating lectures. As time goes by, she mesmerizes them with a description of a Gryphon as being that monster animal half bird, half lion that she had heard about them and never seen them until her travel to the outskirt of Cairo, where she will be personally shown gryphon in the cage by an old Egyptian man who worked for a circus. Njoya 2
Plus other stories about Egyptians’ beliefs and their great exploration history, two of her students, the narrator, Tommy and Carl Whiteside do not believe her. After the short conversation between the narrator and Carl, during which both do not believe all things Miss Forenczi said and the narrator tried to convince Carl that Miss Forenczi could be telling the truth, they will get off the bus without a clear conclusion on whether she was really telling lies. It was not until the narrator pulled a dictionary next to the television stand and opened it to the G’s that he finally discovered the meaning of Gryphon:”variant of griffin.” Griffin:”a fabulous beast with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion.”(P.Literature). At this point, the narrator has begun to understand feel that Miss forenczi could not be telling them lies by paying pays more to what she had to say now and then. Because the narrator feels she is up to something big. She wants to teach them in a different way and style that they are used to.
Even the author, Charles Baxter will later emphasize and support the Importance of Gryphon during a Question- Answer interview by Writework.com: “Question: What does the title of the story mean? The gryphon doesn't seem very important-- what does the idea of a gryphon bring to the story? Baxter: Ms. Ferenczi mentions the gryphon as an animal she's actually seen in Egypt. A gryphon, however, is an entirely imaginary creature, half eagle and half lion. In other words, a gryphon is made up of parts from the world, but these parts are combined in order to create a new, imaginary thing that does not exist in the world until someone thinks of it. She seems to feel that young people should be exposed to exotic facts and possibility of this sort. Njoya 3
And of course it's possible to read the story with Ms. Ferenczi as something of a gryphon herself--half in this world, a world of concrete objects, and half out-of-this-world.”(Writework.com)
In essence, as student get excited to hear more of her stories and follow her way of teaching, she will go too far to tell her class that six times eleven could be sixty eight. However, she accepts the normal mathematical answer, but she will also provide a different view and solution to the problem, “because it is interesting that way,” She said. (P. Literature)
For instance, when came the moment the little boy narrator could not spell balcony; she whispered to him that the word is ugly and if he does not like a word, he does not have to use it. “The students who have the wrong answer and the wrong spelling would always...