Supplementary Discussion of Grace Paley's "Friends"

  You are not assigned a specific question to answer in supplementary discussion, but feel free to use any of the question below or create your own. 

You are required to post to 5 supplementary discussions over the course of the semester. You can do more for extra credit, so long as you do it in the scheduled timeframe.

13 Questions To Ask of Every Story: 

1.          What makes this story “literary”? 

 

2.          Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

 

3.          Why do you think this story was considered one of the best / most iconic stories at the time of its publication? What made it a “successful” story?

 

4.          Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

 

5.          Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?

 

6.          Character: In what ways does the writer show character?

 

7.          Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?

 

8.          Point of view: Why do you think the writer chose this particular point of view for the story? How does the point of view function to establish distance or make us feel a certain way?

 

9.          Setting: How does the setting work within the story? What are the key places, and in how does the writer describe them?

 

10.      Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?

 

11.      Do a little bit of research on this author. Is this story a good example of his/her work? Is there anything else you learned that could add to our understanding of the story?

 

12.      What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it?


13. How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

Comments

  1. 4. Plot: What is the “rich ground situation” (conflict) of the story? What happens to complicate this ground situation?

    A: The obvious primary conflict of the story is that the women's mutual friend Selena is dying, and they all have to come to terms with her inevitable passing. On a deeper level, all of the women have to confront their own mortality and the ways in which their lives have played out. There's also a sub-plot in which the women have to factor their children into their life equations.

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  2. 7. Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?
    The characters drive the story by having them talk about their dead friend and how they react to it. The best example in the story is by the time they are done talking about and Ann gets to her stop, she says that she is done talking about it and that "she wreaked everything". This is how (at least from what I've heard) how some people react when their loved ones die.
    -Michael

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  3. 1. What makes this story “literary”?

    In what makes this work literary, it's the way that it combines the ideas of mortality with the idea of building something that will remember you. Especially with the end of the story saying "But I was right to invent for my friends and our children a report on these private deaths and the condition of our lifelong attachments" (351). Many people want to leave a legacy, want to leave something behind to be remembered and...it's almost jarring to have it written down on a page. To have a reminiscent story of death transforms into something that attacks the reader. Makes you sit back and realize why you acted the way you did.

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  4. 13. How is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

    This story is similar to the short story "The School" in how the narrator recalls the events in a stream of conscious kind of way. Both stories as well tackle the theme of mortality and somewhat coming to terms with it. The writing also feels very loose and easy to get lost in with the lack of quotation marks when someone is speaking. Which is different from many of the short stories we have read up to this point.

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    Replies
    1. This story is also told by a first person narration. This is also similar to the other story we recently read "What we talk about when we talk about love."

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  5. 2. Why is this story considered one of the best stories of the past hundred years? If it’s an old story, why has it endured?

    Although this story was composed in 1980, its themes are consistent with a human experience that will probably never expire. It was interesting to see two characters in "Friends" seemingly "die" before they were dead. Ann's son Mickey debuts a sort of familial disappearance, and distances himself, and Susan already is somewhat of a ghost. Faith said, "It's not right to talk like that. She's not dead yet, Annie." "Yes, she is, said Ann." I think that this story has endured because it is so reflective. Paley even includes some mention of both hindsight and foresight. I think that she even includes these ideas subtly in her writing as well. All of the rich characters have a past, some share more than others, and they all seemingly have regrets -- even if they won't admit it to themselves.

    - Elizabeth S.

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  6. 12. What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it?

    There were quite a few aspects that I would consider noteworthy. I didn't exactly find myself enthralled by the lack of punctuation, though it was recommended to be read out loud thanks to Grace Paley's obituary. The context there helped clarify the intent in what I believed to be a mistake. This point however is something that's felt throughout, and the obituary was just a more obvious tell: this is a deeply personal piece. It is within the informality of one friend reminiscing about another that blossoms the evocative nature of time with another. I find that this in tandem with the sharp contrast of death could translate into the takeaway, if I had to choose one, of the acceptance of cherishing of time and it's inevitable passing.

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  7. 12. What do you think the reader is supposed to take from the story? What can we, as writers, learn from studying it?

    The style of writing is very unique in this story and pays close attention to language, while also focusing on character, which is at the heart of this story as Faith, Susan, and Ann says goodbye to Selena on her death bed. Stylistically, I thought it was interesting how Faith is narrating the story, however, she rarely uses the word ‘I’ and instead uses ‘our’ and ‘us’ to show that her feelings and thoughts are being collectively shared among the group of friends. This creates less distance and distinction between the characters and reveals that their friendship is extremely strong. With that, the dialogue isn’t distinguished with quotation marks, which makes the lines of dialogue a little ambiguous because we don’t always know whether one character is saying something, the narrator is, or they are collectively saying something.

    -Sam W.

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  8. Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?

    The first line that stood out to me was on page 346, "Well, some bad things have happened in my life, I said. What? You were born a woman? Is that it?" I just thought this line was funny and it described the relationship between all the woman. They were saying goodbye to their friend and although they had all gone through lots of hardships they still had humor and could poke fun at each other.
    The next line I highlighted was on page 349, "We're angry with our friend Selena for dying. The reason is, we want her to be present when were dying." The situation they are in is really serious and sad. Watching their friend Selena get sicker knowing there is nothing they can do but they are all so tough and use humor to get through all the tough situations in their life.
    The last line I highlighted was on the last page; "I think the bond was sealed then, at least as useful as the vow we'd all sworn with husbands to whom we're no longer married." This story I felt was about the bond between all these women and their children and the pain they felt as they lost one of their friends. The bond between them all was deeper then any other bond they had.
    - Zoe!

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