Say Yes

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Andrew Hickey
English 102
February 8, 2012
Response to “Say Yes”

Before I started my reader-response paper, I read an article by Steven Lynn to help me know the right approach to a reader-response. There is two ways that I can approach this “by describing how readers should respond to the text or by giving the critics’ own personal response or by giving the critic’s own personal response.” I found this to really help me understand the concept of a reader-response paper. I decided to mostly give my own personal response but react on how some other readers might react.

I looked at the title and author to form a perspective on what to look for. “Say Yes” seems to be a desired answer from some person. This could be a threat given by someone, such as the character is forcing another character to give in. I thought it was a longing answer that someone is hoping for but will never receive. Thus I thought it would be a situation of conflict. I then read the author’s name “Tobias Wolff” and I actually couldn’t quite tell if it was a guy or a girl honestly. I guessed it was a guy and that the perspective would be from a guy’s eye.

The first sentence “They were doing the dishes, his wife washing while he dried” revealed that the story would be about a married couple. This seems like a stereotypical marriage that the husband is trying to help the wife with home chores and they have a happy life. The rest of the first paragraph describes the husband being a “considerate husband” that implies the other wives get jealous of their relationship. The story seems to be a perfect relationship with a loving husband and a great wife that is deserving of the husband. The beginning of the story doesn’t really describe much about the wife. Tobias Wolff decided to write his story in 1st person view of the husband. So he wanted to have the husband be more well-rounded understood than the wife; perhaps for the purpose to keep our creativity open and different possibilities of how the story can play out. I was very intrigued so far and interested when the conflict would come in.

The conflict is quickly brought up in the story in the 2nd paragraph. The conflict is “whether white people should marry black people” the husband thought it was a bad idea. In order for this to be the conflict, the wife disagrees and quickly reacts to it, she gets “this look” that the husband knows all too well. The husband knows he should stay quite but in order for the story to evolve, he can’t. He has a tendency to never stay quite. This starts the two sided conversation and me, being the reader, get the decision to choose a side of the argument. He wife attacks the husband’s answer and stops everything she is doing for his reply. The husband is defensive and tries to not make it a big deal after he describes his knowledge of being friends with blacks and their culture. At this point I am starting to side with the husband, not because I think what he said was right, but because of how forceful the wife is becoming. I am not sure if the author intended the husband to be seen as a racist or not. He “went to school with blacks…worked with blacks…lived on the same street with blacks, and we’ve always gotten along just fine” shows he has no racist feelings towards blacks.

The argument changes from the specific topic of race to their culture barrier. The husband describes as “they even have their own language…I like hearing them talk” I received the tone of the husband that he thought he was superior in a way. Such as he didn’t favor how they talked but liked it? He is trying to give his point without making him seem racist or bad. The wife is frustrated by the husband’s lack of equality. I can tell by how she is washing faster and avoiding his eye contact. She doesn’t like this flaw in her husband and compares blacks to foreigners. Much to her fear, the husband believes that foreigners should get married. At this point I am not on any side of the husband or...
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