Barthelme's "The School" is the first postmodernist story I have ever read. When I read it for the first time, my lips formed a bitter smile. In my imagination, postmodernist stories differed from the classical ones in the arrangement of the ideas and in the standard that postmodernists reject society. True, "The School" does differ in composition, for example the absence of introduction, but though it sounds somewhat comical, it does also have an incorporated pessimism that makes me reflect on the story. I think this pessimism is the cause that postmodernists reject society.
The notion of rejection comes in the story through the death cases. It seems strange why Barthelme uses the notion death in his story, but I think the reason is that this is the best way to stress that every living thing is losing its importance. Hopeless pessimism interweaves with the idea of rejection, and I find them together everywhere, in every death case.
For Barthelme, what is lost is unrecoverable. Pessimism, mostly expressed in taking death naturally, spreads uniformly all over the story, from the first paragraph about the orange trees to the last when the new gerbil enters the classroom. In this school, where the children are supposed to receive education, everything dies. The fish, the salamander, and the orange trees die though children take much care of them. The teacher is pessimistic although life goes on and a new gerbil walks in the school. Edgar says that "life is that which gives meaning to life," but still this does not change that Edgar knew that the puppy would die in two weeks. He had seen worse when some parents died in a car accident and when two children died while playing with each other in a dangerous place. What else, but pessimism, could one expect in an environment where every living thing, including children, is dying?
Death's dominance in the story shows again that society, which presumably...