The Great Leapfrog Contest and

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In the short stories, “The Good Corn” written by H.E. Bates and “The Great Leapfrog Contest” by William Saroyan techniques such as characters, point of view, setting and structure work together to explore the issue of personal conflict and establish tension between the main characters in each story. An examination of these techniques allow a more enhanced reading of the texts and in turn evoke a particular response from the reader.

In the short story “The Good Corn” there are three main characters which are portrayed in such a way as to allow a tension and personal conflict to be created but only after the reader is positioned to respond favourably to the characters initially. Joe Mortimer and his wife are introduced to the reader first and the relationship established between them is a warm and caring mutual love. At the beginning of the story Joe Mortimer is portrayed as a loving and caring husband who worries about his wife and reassures her about her infertility saying “Don’t say that. Don’t talk like that...” This response initially evokes a positive response from the reader towards the character Joe. Similarly, Mrs. Mortimer is portrayed as comforting, kind and gentle and this womanly nature is conveyed when she says to Joe “I want you. Don’t be afraid of that.” Hence, the relationship established between the farm couple is one of mutual friendship and love. The reader is positioned to respond favourably towards the two characters.

In much the same manner, the short story “The Great Leapfrog Contest” also develops the main characters so the reader responds to each in a positive manner initially. Rosie is portrayed as a tomboy in the opening paragraphs which is demonstrated through the quote “Rosie has little use for girls, and as far as possible avoided them.” She is also conveyed as smart and conniving as she had “discovered how to jump over Rex in a way that weakened him”. The reader is positioned to see Rosie as the underdog due to her gender and because of her headstrong and shrewd manner the reader responds positively towards this character. Rex is introduced to the reader as a “natural born leader” and as “very calm and courteous…..with poise that couldn’t be hurried, flustered or excited.” Due to these admirable attributes he too is also looked upon favourably by the reader. Hence in the two short stories the reader is positioned to like all the characters presented.

However, both stories develop a tension between the main characters despite the openings that portray all the characters in a positive light. In “The Good Corn” the introduction of the character Elsie to the Mortimer’s life sets in motion a turn of events that causes a rift in the Mortimer’s relationship and also initiates a personal conflict in the character of Mrs. Mortimer. The character of Elsie is developed in such a manner as to portray her as flirtatious with her asking Joe “how do I bring my thumbs over so that I can blow?” and eventually as inconsiderate when she breaks the news of their affair in a harsh manner to Joe’s wife. The tension that is created between the farm couple is illustrated when Joe says in the following passage “I didn’t think you wanted me…..I got so as I thought you didn’t want me anymore…” Due to Elsie’s immorality and betrayal of Mrs. Mortimer’s friendship the reader looks upon her in a negative light. She not only has created problems within the marriage but also causes Mrs. Mortimer to blame herself when she says to Joe “I’m sorry. It was me. It was my fault.” This illustrates the personal conflict Mrs. Mortimer is engaged in as she rationalizes her husband’s behaviour in terms of her belief that she has not...
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