In the final section of the novel, The Sweet Hereafter, Banks seems to be using the demolition derby setting as a place for everyone to meet and see just exactly how things have changed in the town of Sam Dent since the tragic bus accident that happened the previous winter. It serves as a place that can be compared and contrasted with how the townspeople act this year versus the previous years. It is also a place where most everyone in the town comes annually. It may be told through Dolores' perspective but she gives the reader an idea of exactly how different of an experience it is for her this year from last year. She also eludes through her narration how specific people are different this year.
The most significant change in a person that I was able to notice was the change in Billy Ansel. Dolores commented on how he was drunk when she saw him at the demolition derby. He was carrying a flask with him and had a woman with him that was, as Dolores commented, "Not the sort of woman you'd expect to see in Billy Ansel's company" (233). Dolores described the way Billy used to be by saying that he "had been a noble man; and now he was ruined" (235). I could tell differences in Billy as well. The first thing that tipped me off about how he was acting was that he was cursing profusely. Before all of this happened he would curse, but at the demolition derby it was like he couldn't go for an entire sentence without cursing. Russell Banks did a very good job of changing the dialogue that came about in a conversation with Billy Ansel. It really gave me a sense of giving up. It seems to me that Billy has given up. He no longer is trying to be the pillar of strength that he used to be. He doesn't hide the fact that he is a drunk and he doesn't seem to care very much about the woman he is with. These are some very big changes in Billy. He is clearly a wounded and beaten man. I think that Dolores summed it up perfectly when she said, "I looked across to Billy Ansel and...
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