Supplementary Discussion of Denis Johnson's "Emergency"

  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?


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

    This is definitely a story that makes you think. I found myself looking back on what I had read, but understanding it in a different way after I read what happened a bit later. In particular this happened for me when the narrator found Georgie's stolen pills. "He stood still a minute, and I found his stash. I left him two of each, whatever they were." I took this to mean that he confiscated the pills, and left Georgie some out of courtesy. I found out later, however that the narrator had actually been eating the pills he took from him.

    Additionally, this is a story that examines two characters in particular that aren't necessarily "good people." The characters aren't particularly likable, but I was drawn into them nonetheless. I think that part of the "literary-ness" comes from the ability to want to understand a character despite their vices.

    - Elizabeth S.

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

    This story is almost all character driven. From Georgie taking drugs, the Nurse, Terrace Weber, the main character, and Hardee. The story begins in the hospital and the characters all interact with each other. At first, it seems that no one likes each other, but Georgie and the main character share some of the drugs, and you can tell they have a relationship. I wouldn't consider it a friendship, but the relationship drives the story forward. Both Georgie and the main character, who we find out is the Orderly, go outside and rive for what they say is miles. Both the main character and Georgie are unreliable narrators, so for most of the story I wasn't sure if what was happening actually happened. The dialogue between both of them is natural as if they do this every shift together. They both carry the story forward, but it is towards the end when we learn the Orderly is a "fuckhead" and Georgie saves lives that we learn that Georgie may be the most reliable.


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

    In the story when Georgie and the narrator were laying in the back of the pickup truck after the guy got stabbed. Georgie talked about wanting to go to church while the narrator talked about going to the fair. From this interaction we can see that Georgie is shaken by the events that occurred, and we can see from earlier in the story when Georgie is mopping up.
    We get more insight on Georgie's character with when he hits the rabbit after the fair he tries to save the unborn rabbit babies. Then at the end of the story Georgie states that his job is to save people.
    At the start of the story we're told that Georgie steals pills from the hospital which can shed some light on why Georgie acts erratically throughout the story.

  4. I wanted to point out a theme I noticed throughout the story, which is seeing and not seeing. When we meet Georgie, he is mopping up blood that isn’t there. Then a man comes in with a knife in his eye, yet strangely he can see out of that eye, but not the other one that is fake. Later we learn he was stabbed for looking at something he shouldn’t have. Georgie didn’t see any rides, and the narrator says they were there, and he asks Georgie, “Are you completely blind?” The examples go on and on. This theme makes sense because the story seems to be set in reality in the beginning, but as the story progresses it slips more into bizarre surrealism. Soon we as readers aren’t sure if what we are seeing is even true.

    -Logan O.

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

    I found that the locations that the story was set were tailored to flesh out the characters more. In the first person perspective to observe Georgie, in all the places that they shared, it helped drive home the idea of what kind of person Georgie and why the protagonist idolized him. In the hospital, he did what he was told and stayed out of the way where he can't help. On the road, he instinctively went to cater for the rabbits. At the chapel, he saw the patient and the protagonist recognized Georgie as a thankless worker. His altruistic behavior peaked at the end with the idea that he'd rather help a friend out while against the law. His foundational good, nuance aside, helped shape how the audience shaped Georgie more akin to how "Fuckhead" thought of him.


  6. 10. Pick three of the best lines in the story. Why are they good lines?
    A. "After a while Hardee asked Georgie, What do you do for a job, and Georgie said, I save lives." I like this line because not only is it true (given that both Georgie and the narrator work in the medical field) but it tie Hardee's situation as well as the story with Terrence Weber.
    B. "Around 3:30 a.m. a guy with a knife in his eye came in, led by Georgie. I hope you didn’t do that to him, Nurse said. Me? Georgie said. No. He was like this." I like this exchange because I find it funny how these two are having this exchange like Hardee broke a vase or something instead of a guy with a knife in his eye.
    C. "After a while you forget it’s summer. You don’t remember what the morning is." I personally like this line for how realistic it is. I say this as someone who has had to work an overnight shift stalking shelves over the summer and had to go to work at 7:30 at night and get home at 6:30 in the morning and sleep into the afternoon.

  7. 7. Character: In what ways does the character drive the action of the story?
    Georgie is high on drugs throughout the entire story, although we are not sure what drugs exactly. When the narrator takes some of Georgie's drugs they are both high out of their minds. In the story a patient comes in with a knife sticking out of his eye, and although this causes a lot of action in the story Georgie's reaction is what drives the story. For example when the doctor was prepping the man for surgery to remove the knife and sees that Georgie already has the knife in his hand, then proceeds to use that same knife throughout the rest of the story. Georgie's reactions to situations drives the plot of the story. Each scene is driven by his drug-induced actions with the narrator following along.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts