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Short Story Recommendation – “The Falls” by George Saunders
May 19, 2010, 12:35 am
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This short story, “The Falls” is taken from a larger collection of Saunders’s short stories called Pastoralia. The story is strange in that the majority of its contents are the inner thoughts of two separate men living in the same town, their views of themselves, and their prejudices against each other.  However, midway through the story a conflict is introduced in which two girls in a canoe are about to head over a waterfall and both men have to react to the situation.  Instead of recounting the entire ordeal and giving a traditional conclusion to such an ordeal, Saunders ends the story as the narrator, Morse, is jumping into the water. I particularly enjoyed the last paragraph of the story:

“Was he a good swimmer?  He was mediocre at best.  Therefore he would have to run for help.  But running was futile.  Because there was no time.  He had just decided that.  And swimming was out of the question.  Therefore the girls would die.  They were basically dead.  Although that couldn’t be.  That was too sad.  What would become of the mother who this morning had dressed them in matching sweaters?  How would she cope?  Soon her girls would be nude and bruised and dead on a table.  It was unthinkable.  He thought of Robert nude and bruised and dead on a table.  What to do?  He fiercely wished himself elsewhere.  The girls saw him now and with their hands appeared to be trying to explain that they would be dead soon.  My God, did they think he was blind?  Did they think he was stupid?  Was he their fathers?  Did they think he was Christ?  They were dead.  They were frantic, calling out to him, but they were dead, as dead as the ancient dead, and he was alive, he was needed at home, it was a no-brainer, no one could possibly blame him for this one, and making a low sound of despair in his throat he kicked off his loafers and threw his long ugly body out across the water.”

“The Falls” by George Saunders pg. 188

I particularly enjoyed the repetition of ideas in this passage and the suspense that is intermingled with the tension created by the scene.  Earlier in the story, Morse is thinking about how he wishes a better body for his son than his own, to be respected, and to achieve something great in his lifetime.  You might think that these previous thoughts would somehow fit into this scene, but instead, Saunders lets the characters panic and question what he should do.  The world created at the end of the book shows a very different story and setting than the previous one that was created entirely inside the narrators’ minds.




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Class Blog: ENGL 2810: Creative Writing