Discussion of Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's "Friday Black"

 Post your answer in the comments below. Make sure to include the number of the question you're answering and either cut and paste the question or answer in complete sentences so that we know which question you're answering.


A-1, B-2, C-3, D-4, E-5, F-6, G-7, H-8, I-9, J-10, K-11, L-12, M-13

If you have further thoughts or questions about the story, please feel to also post these below. 

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. 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?

    This story is so iconic because of the animalistic nature of it. All of the customers act like wild animals and there is a feral, otherworldly tone to the story. As the story progresses, even the main character becomes more animalistic. It reminds me a bit of Lord of the Flies in the way that they are all fending for themselves and they become like wild beasts. This is a fresh take on not only Black Friday but of retail in general and the dog eat dog world of the workplace.

    -Bailey

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  2. 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?
    Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was born in New York and has had short stories published in New York Times Book Review, Esquire, Literary Hub, The paris Review, Gurenica, and Longreads. On his website I read "Everything Is Lava." That story and "Friday Black" both focus around a specific day/event and the emotions of the people going through it. With "Friday Black" it's about retail workers working on Black Friday, and with "Everything is Lava" it focuses on a family going through the first weeks of quarantine during Covid. Both stories have some humor and imagination to it with "Friday Black" having the shoppers being described as monsters, and with "Everything is Lava" the young child is told everything is lava including his face. The child has a humorous reaction in which he yells. In a previous class we read through his story "The Era" which is a story about a future in which people can be genetically engendered in the womb and many people take a drug that makes them feel good. As a reader we can see his sense of dark humor with how things are described in his story with people calling a war "Long Big War and the Big Quick War." Its also somewhat of a commentary about drug use and addiction. From reading some of his works he tends to write more about people in common day situations and people's emotions about a certain situation. As well as focusing on recent topics like addiction, consumerism, and mental health surrounding the pandemic.

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  3. 5. Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?
    The climax of the story is when Duo quits and our main character ( I don't know if their name is actually said) has to come back early. This moment irrevocably changes everything because it's one less person to help with this chaotic store as well as how detached you have to be to work Black Friday at this store. It also shows how skilled the main character is at this when they know exactly what the woman attacking Angela wants and grabs it instantly.
    -Michael

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

    Friday black takes place in a dystopian type of retail store. Enyah’s uses items within the setting like clothing racks, aisles and hangers to display the violent nature of people all fighting to get a good deal on the coats. The use of the retail store lets Enyah exaggerate violence customers will use when trying to get a good deal on days that their are big sales. The violence in the story is dramatic, but it’s also not far from the truth. Because the setting is in a retail store and everyone in America has seen on the news the violence that happens when there is big sale the setting makes the story scary because of how close to the truth it is

    -Zoe!!

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  5. The story this piece most reminded me of was “The School”, because it had a similar nonchalant veneer over something that is so depraved, and creates a skin of something “just beyond believable” that reflects back on our society. There’s the “material objects as a sign of status to fill a void” theme we get from “The Gilded Six Bits” and “The Enormous Radio”. But beyond that, I think this story really stands on its own. We haven’t seen a piece like this in this class. Yes, we’ve seen violence (or had violence implied) in pieces like “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, “The Things They Carried”, and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, but here the violence is present throughout, much more graphic, and yet the narrator seems largely numb to it. Where other pieces had more discrete acts of violence, violence permeates every aspect of this piece, holding it together. Not only is there the violence of the horde of customers, but there is the violent consumerism of the workers and corporate: Wendy’s biological warfare for a larger commission, the narrator’s own disregard for those around them for a jacket, corporate allowing this to happen because it turns a profit.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, the question I was addressing was: how is this story similar to others we've read? How is it different?

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

    When looking towards Friday Black is Literary in the sense that it is a call on America's inherent commercialism, especially amongst the satire of the dialogue. It's something beautifully terrifying and yet so funny when you see the customers talking like caveman. "There are people strung out over benches and feet poking out of trash bins" (110) was one which immediately made me realize this may not be a good a recollection of this. When looking at a source by the New York Times, they connect it to a slew of other works that bring up similar systemic topics to this one. While one could see the way they speak on customers degrading, it also raises light on why Duo may even leave the group. That when you bring one less person here, it is all the more scary. The crowd becomes just one bigger, and you become more and more terrified with the reader.

    Especially the end, when our protagonist has to put on a smile, and ask what they need in the face of the clawing people.

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

    The characters in this story don't talk much except for the main character where we get his first person point of view. He takes us along his thought process during his third Black Friday and the chaos that comes with it. He talks about how horrible the people are and drives the action by showing he knows what he is doing and how to do it. Duo quits which reflects how the main character has to do this and can't just leave, that's why he has stayed so long. We also see how much the other employees in the store need him too, which drives the story further into how chaotic and material hungry people are.

    -Taylor

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

    I think one of the best ways character is shown in this story is through dialogue. We get a good sense of the shoppers by the few words they are able to mutter, of how feral and brutal they are. Then what they actually say gets juxtaposed with the thoughts the main character is able to hear, and we are able to understand them and their motivation that drove them to the feral state. Then the best moment comes from dialogue, when Duo tells the main character they don't need the coat. Duo, by revealing he can read the main character's motivation, weearn that he has been a Black Friday shopper all along, and it explains so much of his character. Like why he is so brutal and barely talks. It's a great moment.

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

    I was intrigued by how this story focused more on describing the setting than utilizing dialogue to carry the story. The protagonist is nameless, and we don’t get to know much about him besides that he is willing to turn a blind eye to the atrocities of Black Friday because he feels like he has to, and this year he’s trying to win a coat for his mother. Besides a few interactions with his coworkers and a couple of deranged customers, there aren’t many occasions where he speaks. I think the point of this story isn’t to get to know the protagonist as deeply as in other short stories. This story mainly serves as a commentary on commercialism, which it accomplishes by using satire and surreal detail to distort the reader’s experience. Even in the opening lines, the description is poignant but mystifying. Without help from the title, the description is bizarre. The “ravenous human howls” from the people waiting outside are pounding on the gate while the protagonist sits “atop a tiny cabin roof made of hard plastic.” Later, when he’s eating in the cafeteria on his break, a customer tells him that her family has died in a crazed shopping stampede by drawing a smiley face on the cardboard box of her newly purchased television. These surreal details twist reality in order to express the author’s disease with the grotesque and perplexing things that have become normalized during Black Friday as a result of consumerism.

    -Sam

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