Narrative Criticism of Gillian Welch’s “Caleb Meyer”
“Caleb Meyer,” a compelling bluegrass song written by Gillian Welch, tells of the narrator’s struggle while a drunken man rapes as she fights for her life. The dramatic crescendo throughout the song creates a narrative that forces the audience to the edge of their seats as they anticipate anxiously what will happen next. Welch uses persuasive narrative rhetoric throughout the song to create her message, one that any moral person will find difficult to sympathize with. Throughout this essay I will identify “Caleb Meyer” as a rhetorical narrative, criticize its form and function, and evaluate its effectiveness.
In order to criticize “Caleb Meyer” using Rowand’s method of narrative criticism, I must first establish that it meets all of the criteria of a narrative according to Sonja Foss. The first criteria Foss requires is that the artifact contain two events. The song in fact includes multiple events, but for explanative purposes we will assign those two events as Meyer drunkenly wandering into the narrator’s yard and raping her, and the narrator slicing his throat with the broken bottle. Foss then requires that the two events in a narrative happen in a sequence of some sort, which, using the examples above, we can easily find to be true in a chronological nature. Meyer first assaults the narrator, and it is not until he does that she retaliates. Foss’s third standard for a narrative requires that the sequential events have a casual relationship. Again, using the events above, we can easily argue that without the first event (Meyer assaulting the narrator) the second event (the narrator slicing his neck with the bottle) would not have occurred, for there would have been no reason for her to retaliate against Meyer. The last criteria Foss requires is that the sequential, casual events be about a unified subject. All of the events that take place in the artifact, including those aforementioned, are about the...
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