Off the Bus: a Thematic Analysis of Vivian Gornick's “on the Bus”

Topics: Public transport, Bus stop, Bus Pages: 4 (1468 words) Published: September 23, 2010
Christian F. Lyons
English 2301.11
Ms. Daigle Vidrine
24 February 2010
Off the Bus: A Thematic Analysis of Vivian Gornick’s “On The Bus”

Sometimes all we need is for someone to listen; Gornick realizes this as she travels back and forth on a bus from New York to a school three in a half hours away. While traveling to and from school, she meets an exhausted woman in her mid twenties named Jewel, who is traveling from Cleveland to New York to visit her sick mother. Over the few weeks they share on a bus together, Gornick listens to Jewel as she talks about her family, and at the end comes to a realization that will forever change her life and Jewel’s.

Gornick was a teacher in graduate writing programs that were mostly far from home, and this new job took her two hundred miles away from New York to the “exact middle of nowhere” (Gornick 110). As most New Yorkers, she didn’t have a car, and getting there by plane or a train would prove to be a tedious and expensive task. A bus was the more realistic choice for her, so on Monday she boarded the Greyhound bus that would depart at 5:00 in the afternoon and drop her off at 9:30 in the evening at a truck stop fifteen miles from the school. On Thursday nights she would return to the truck stop at 8:30 in the evening and be back in New York by 1:00 in the morning.

She was often the only person to be dropped off at the bus stop, as most of her fellow passengers continued on to Cleveland, Chicago, California, or Utah. Gornick describes the bus as saying, “the bus was, in fact, a study of exhaustion” (Gornick 110), and that it was full of working class blacks, Asians or Latinos, whom none of which spoke a word of English, or broken English at their best. Her travel always began at the Port Authority where her fellow passengers began to stand in line an hour before the bus was to depart. Although most of them were slumped against a wall, or lying against their duffel bags, or just sitting on the floor “the...

References: Roots, Robert, and Michael Steinberg. The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction. 5th ed. New York: Pearson, 2010. 110 - 113. Print.
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