Supplementary Discussion of George Saunders' "Semplica-Girl Diaries"

  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. 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?

    I think the writer chose to have this story from the point of view of a journal so that we really could delve deep into the character's day by day reasonings and go through an arc with the character. It is also more personal. It is the character's thoughts and feelings in a way that seems more direct and it would have the same effect if it was written in regular prose. We are able to understand why this character participates in a horrible trend because we empathize with the character more.

    -Bailey

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

    As a reader, you can come out of it with two different things. The urgency leaves you holding your breath, the way that the character flip and flop when life goes well and it does not. The difference in opinons covers society, and hits hard when you realize this is calling out 1st world nations. The way they act as champions but then throw it away once they gain enough money to do so. Word choice cuts into the reader, making you reread everything to search for meanings.

    While on the writer's side, you really appreciate the epistolary side. Especially since a lot of it adds to the characters that Sander's writes. There are abbreviations and short hand statements make everything that is said fully alot more impactful. Statements like the ending, and when they win the 10 grand are important examples. It also gives the protagonist much more credence and comfortability. Because in the situations and trends they deal with, you can see and relate to it.

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  3. I think one of the really interesting dynamics of “The Semplica Girl Diaries” is the dynamic of the “Semplica Girls” as signs of wealth, but also the discussion of agency surrounding them. The father waving off Eva’s concerns because the girls “chose” to be there and “want” to be there (and that compared to what they’d seen, being hung on display was good)—ignoring the socioeconomic conditions that placed them in a situation where being hung and displayed like that was their best option—feels like a cutting criticism of the ways that we choose to put on blinders to the exploitation of vulnerable groups with the claim of agency. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the girls are coming from third world countries, and that their status as an oddity is used to create “inspirational” narratives about how this role is helping their families. This feels connected to me of both the exploited labor of women in areas like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and the narratives that surround them, and—especially with the discussions surrounding this topic right now—of the sexual exploitation of Southeast Asian women. This comparison feels more direct than a lot of the comparisons we’ve had previously, but doesn’t feel too soap-boxish. I think that it’s able to be both more direct and still get its message across because of the absurdity. The absurdity, like with “Friday Black” creates a false distance from the issue it’s addressing, allowing the reflection of society to reach a less guarded mind.

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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?

    I think that the reader is supposed to take away the narrators attitude towards the gap between the “poor” middle class, and the rich. The narrator is constantly comparing his life to the life of the rich and even pushes it on his kids. In one of the first diary entrees when the front bumper fell off the kids said “we’ll get a new bumper when we’re rich” I think this story wants us to take away that status isn’t everything and even if you have the house, the job and the kids, these things are not enough to warrant satisfaction in life.

    -Zoe!!

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  5. 5. Plot: What is the climax of this story? How does the moment irrevocably change everything?
    The climax of the story is when Eva ends up releasing the SGs which leads the family from being in a happy situation into a more stressful situation. The family was already financially in a tight spot and them having to pay a fee of around 9,000 dollars is too much for them. As well the hopes of finding the SGs is very low which means that they would have to pay the fine. This causes the parents and children to feel very stressed. Especially Eva who was the one that released the SGs, and can possibly lead the family to become homeless.

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  6. One of the brilliant things about this story is the it goes into the minutiae of the narrator's life. We get caught up on their daily struggle over money, and I was really invested in good things happening for them. Then we feel bad at the end when they are going to own a lot of money. What we don't realize is how fortunate they are. Compare their situation the the Semplica Girls' situation. No matter how bad off financially they are, they are never going to need to drill a hole in their head to make life possible for your family. It is such an interesting look at socioeconomics, where our societies least fortunate is still able to afford to string people from other culture up for decorations.

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  7. 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?

    A: I think Saunders opted for this point of view because it perfectly balances distance and intimacy. By telling the story through the father's journal/ diary, we're able to breeze through lengthy chunks of plot while still feeling a personal connection to the protagonist. Additionally, I think this point of view serves as a deterrent against exposition. This is a wild story with a complex world, and I imagine it would be really tempting to write massive chunks of exposition explaining the story's world. But when viewed through the eyes of someone who lives in the world and is already familiar with it, the reader is given no choice but to piece things together as the story progresses rather than rely on exposition.

    Alec

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