Literary Analysis Essay

Topics: Short story, Fiction, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Pages: 4 (1434 words) Published: November 25, 2006
Difficult Lives

When the drama attains a characterization which makes the play a revelation of human conduct and dialogue which characterizes yet pleases for itself, we reach dramatic literature. – George P. Baker.

The elements in fiction; plot, setting, point of view, character, theme, symbolism and language, give the author of a short story the prospect to sculpt their words into a beautiful piece of art. Two elements, dialogue and characterization, are approached differently in the two short stories even though both authors use indirect characterization to reveal information about the characters through their own thoughts, words and actions. Without dialogue, neither story would be able to progress. "The Cousins," relies solely on dialogue through the letters written between the women to move the story forward. In "Old Boys, Old Girls," there is much less dialogue but the conversations that do take place help to make the story more believable and realistic.

In "The Cousins" the reader gets a feel for both women through the letters that they write to one another. In this epistolary short story, Oates presents the opportunity to gain insight through this technique which lends much realism and believability to the story. Both women in the story are conflicted in their own ways. Rebecca is suffering from cancer and discovers that her long, lost cousin Freyda, whom she thought was dead for the last fifty years is still alive and living in the United States. As you can tell from Rebecca's excitement at this news, she truly loves this cousin she has never met, and who was promised to her as a sister over fifty years ago.

Freyda's response is no where near as eager as Rebecca's when she first reads the letter from her cousin. Freyda has had a very difficult life due to the fact that she is the only survivor of the Holocaust in her immediate family. She lost everyone else to the Nazi's in the 1940's. Freyda's very stand-offish and defensive...

Cited: Oates, Joyce Carol. "The Cousins." The Best American Short Stories. Ed. Michael Chabon. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 298-317.
Jones, Edward P. "Old Boys, Old Girls." The Best American Short Stories. Ed. Michael Chabon. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 265-87.
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