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Crossing

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Crossing
Nothing is stronger than a bond between a child and a parent. In all cultures the parent educates the child with skills and values and these remain with the child all his or her life. The reason why a parent has such impact on its child is because of trust. A relationship build on trust is the strongest and every parent wants to have such a relationship. This is the kind of relationship the main character in the short story Crossing (2009) by Mark Slouka is trying to build with his son.
Crossing is a story told by an omniscient third person narrator. The composition is chronologically structured with a few flashbacks in the form of the main character's childhood memories, and an explanation of why he ended up in the situation where the telling begins. The main character of the short story is a middle-aged father who tries to repair matters due to his many ‘fuckups’. He is divorced, at least separated, and has become a stranger to his wife as well as his home: “…the azaleas he´d planted…wiping his shoes and ducking his head like a visitor” (ll. 14-16). This example attends to illustrate that he is disconnected and displaced. He has not been happy in a while, and he knows everything that had happened is his own fault: “…all his other fuckups were just preparation for this” (ll. 135-136) Therefore, in a last-ditch attempt he goes for an outing in the mountains with his son. He wants to get to know his son because he as well has become a stranger to him as he only sees him in part: ''he looked over at the miniature jeans, the sweatshirt bunched beneath the seat belt's strap...'' (ll. 7-8). This is a description of how the father looks at his son. He does not see anything else but the clothes that he is wearing, in other words; it indicates that the father does not know his son at all, he does not know who he is looking at. Therefore he takes his son out so they can become friends. However, are his motives ambiguous; is this for personal gain or for his son’s better, owing to the irresponsibility to bring a little boy about 4 years into such ‘danger’. He used to go on the very same excursion with his own father and, therefore, he connects it with something you simple do as father and son. Concerning about masculinity and survival reminding of a test of manhood. In addition to that he has to prove to his son and himself that this is something he can succeed in, that he can be Mr Universe. However, he fails to take his son’s age and limits into account in his eager to make this trip a success. His craving for his son’s trust and for stability in life blinds him. This could be a result of his childhood where social heritage plays a part. His own relationship with his father might have been detached and lacked solicitude. This is emphasized of the tough language that his father makes use of: “Don´t fuckin’ fall”. Throughout the short story, that language’s is used to increase the tension, both in the situation the farther and the son are in, but also in their common relationship. Therefore it changes a lot from the beginning to the end of the short story. The language emphasizes the importance of a successful trip multiple times and it is used to show that everything is on stake for the father: “He and his son would be friends. Nothing mattered more”(p. 2 ll. 70-71) This is all or nothing. In the beginning the father is very submissive, but he has a plan and the language fits this situation. It’s calm and without tension. When the fathers plan diverged from what he had hoped the tension and the drama in the language now fits this new situation: “My God, all his other fuckups were just preparations for this” (p. 5 l. 135) The language also changes in its way of commenting on the father and creates a distance from where he started in the short story. As the text progresses, his well-thought idea of how to rebuild his relationship with son crumbles and he loses his grip of the situation. As the father loses confidence in himself, the language makes a gap between the father and his son. The son becomes unsure with his father. First he is very observant and have an expectation of getting another relationship with his father from this trip: “the boy nodded, very serious” (p. 3 l. 44). When the crossing of the river starts to go wrong, the boy begins to doubt his father by asking him: “Dad, you okay?”( p. 5 l. 155). If you consider the way the fathers answers his son, it actually makes sense with the fact that the father feels disconnected to his own body: ''And then he heard his own voice, answering: ''I'm okay, buddy'', it said''(p. 5. ll. 157). Here it is obvious that the father does not belong in his own body, it goes from ''he'' to ''it''. He is a mess, and it seems like he is outside his own body and therefore he does not succeed in getting the situation under control. For the reader it is not a surprise that the father does not succeed in bonding with his son. It is especially due to the pessimistic tone that dominates the story. An example can be the description of the setting in the start when a car appears: ''it was raining(….) dragging a cloud of mist like a parachute, and when it passed he touched the wipers to clear things up and his mind flashed to a scene of a black road''(p. 2 ll.1-4). When the writer decides to lead the reader into a black road as the first thing in the story, it symbolizes that something bad is going to happen. The fact that the father touches the wipers to ''clear things up'' can also be read metaphorically as if we are dealing with a person who needs to get his life back together. Another example of the setting being a very important factor in the characterization of the father can be the description of the sky in the beginning: ''The line of open sky in the east was razor sharp''(p. 2 l. 6). The line can be interpreted as the father's one chance to not “fuck things up” again - it can be the line between the good and bad things in life and it is all about not taking a wrong step. The stream in the river symbolizes the fragile foundation on which the main character is standing. He has to stand his ground in order to survive and get through life without being caught by the stream, and if he makes one wrong step – or one wrong decision, he falls. So when it comes to the setting you can say that the outer landscape mirrors the inner landscape of the father.
So in this story the main character does not succeed in creating this special trust bond between his son and himself. On the way back towards the beach the son doubts if his father has everything under control. But even though the father knows that he is on fragile ground and that the battle probably already is lost, he tries the best he can even though he is a mess.

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