Analysis of Fiction Piece for Creative Writing
Professor Yee Creative Writing 3 April 2013 Craft in Jason Helmandollar’s “Backwards Fall” Jason Helmandollar’s “Backwards Fall” interests me because of the subject of the story - Analysis of Fiction Piece for Creative Writing introduction. It is something I have always been sadly fascinated by because my grandpa had Alzheimer’s and it was so hard to watch such a wise man basically start acting like a baby. I want to study how the setting, description, speech, and action bring this story alive. This story has different sections of time, so I will discuss each element within each section.
The first section, when the female is 62, seems like the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. At first, the reader may think this lady is just old and can’t remember a simple song. The setting in this first section is in this couple’s living room. This is important because it is something the couple shares together and gives the reader a sense of home and comfort, all the while this old lady is forgetting something very simple. It took me back to when my grandpa had Alzheimer’s, it is very real.
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The description in this section is also very important because the narrator tells the reader many things through his descriptions. First, when the woman calls the man “dad”, that is very normal, because they have three children together and have been calling each other that for a while now. Second, this couple seems very much in love, especially when the narrator describes the song—maybe it represents the couple themselves. I think a pivotal part of speech in this section is when the woman says, “How could I have forgotten? As if there should have been no way she could forget something that important and familiar to her. This line foreshadows the deterioration to come. The action here shows the reader that it must be in the early stages; she might not have even been diagnosed with anything yet, especially if she can still remember how to play the guitar. The second section, the woman is 64, and she appears to have stayed the same, forgetting minor things. The setting in this section is again in the living room (at least that’s what it appears to be). The living room rovides something in this story that the readers as well as the characters are familiar with—this creates tension because the woman should know her house very well, but forgets something so trivial. The description in this section lets the reader know that the couple is now aware that there is in fact a disease, and that they went to the doctors to confirm it. This creates tension because the couple is fighting against time, knowing that some day she will forget almost everything. That brings me to speech, when the woman asks, “What if one day I wake up and I’ve forgotten everything? To which her husband responds, “Then I’ll just remind you of everything. ” The speech in this section really shows the love between these two—although it will be hard and they are both so afraid of what will happen, they remain in love. The action works the same way here. He is ready to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. This creates tension because no matter how much he is willing to do for her, he cant fix her mind. At the end of this section, it seems that she has remembered what she wanted in the first place, which gives the reader hope.
In the third section, the reader starts to see that she is getting much worse. She is 65 here, but she thinks she is 48. The couple is again in the living room, something constant, which seems to contrast with the forgetfulness of the woman. The description lets the reader know that the couple has already went to the Grand Canyon, and the woman thinks she is a lot younger than she actually is. It creates tension and a sad feeling when the man remembers how she looked as she was riding a mule down the Grand Canyon. The speech here, as it has in other sections, proven the love the man has for his wife and created tension.
This is especially true when he stops fighting her on the subject and tells her he’s sure they have mules to ride down into the canyon. The reader knows how badly the man wants his wife to remember little things like that, and that this is really killing him, but it keeps getting worse and that creates tension. The next 3 sections are very similar. The setting is somewhere in the couple’s house, maybe a bedroom or the kitchen. While everything around this couple is changing and fading away, the house remains the same. This adds relief to the reader, and the old man in the story.
The descriptions here a very helpful in creating tension, especially when the woman runs away from her husband because she thinks he is a stranger and then after a fight, the husband has to give her a both and sees the mud and blood in the bathtub. At this point, the reader is so sad for the old man because she got to that point where they’re both living with strangers and that is hard for the reader because they saw how much love they had for one another at the beginning of this story. The last two sections describe how the woman, in her mind, is getting younger and younger.
She understands her emotions involved with the people around her, but she doesn’t remember why. She is like an infant now. The most pivotal sentence in this whole story I think is when she is in that infant stage and she sees her husband face “and she finds the strength to fall backward one last time. ” She has been on a decline, and now she is finally okay with going one step further into death. Although she died, the reader is filled with a sense of security knowing that after she died, she remembered her husband, and is waiting for him In conclusion, this story taught me a lot.
The main thing I will take from this is learning a unique way to create tension in time. Tension is heightened when the time is shortened into one day, but this story had a lot of tension for me because it showed one day each year, documenting her decline. I will use that one day each month in my “Losing Control” piece. “Dad? ” she says. “I swear, I can’t remember the words to my own songs. ” She is sixty-two and sitting on the edge of the couch, her old acoustic guitar perched on her knee. Her husband of forty-seven years walks into the living room from the kitchen. “What’s that, Mom? ” he says.
For decades, ever since they had their third child together, he has called her Mom and she has called him Dad. “I can’t remember how the second verse starts. ” “Well, what are you singing? ” “You must be ignoring me. I’ve been trying to sing the same song for the last twenty minutes. ” George, her husband, looks up at the ceiling. “Well, let’s see,” he says, rubbing the gray stubble of his beard. “Picking Flowers in the Rain? ” She smiles and strums the guitar with a flourish. “Lucky guess. ” “The second verse is when it starts to rain. Something about drops on the petals, I believe. “Of course. ” She nods her head once. “How could I have forgotten that? ” She begins to play again, simple chords on a wooden guitar, and sings a song she wrote when she was much younger. It is the story of two lovers who walk in a field of wildflowers. A warm rain begins to fall, and instead of running for shelter, they pick flowers together and realize they are in love. * “Dad? ” she says. She is sixty-four. “Will you get in that closet by the door and …” “What’s that, Mom? ” he says. He is instantly on his feet, poised to do her bidding. “What do you want me to do? He sees the look on her face and lowers himself back into his chair. He hates that look, although he sees it so often it has become his old, evil friend. It is a look of confusion, one of bewildered fear. “I forgot what I wanted. ” She shakes her head, settles back into her own chair. “That’s all right. It’ll come to you. ” She stares straight ahead. Their two recliners are set up in front of the television, but she rarely watches anymore. After a few moments, she turns her head to him. “What are we going to do when I can’t remember anything? ” “The doctors said it might not get any worse. You know that. “But what if it does? What if one day I wake up and I’ve forgotten everything? ” He reaches across the small table between them and pats her hand. “Then I’ll just remind you of everything. ” She smiles at this and the evil look fades away. Above the television is a mantle full of pictures. Her entire family, from her grandparents to her own great-grandchildren, rest on that mantle. She ignores the television and stares at the pictures, even though they are too far away to really see. After a few minutes, she says, “My feet are cold. Will you get me the blanket out of the closet by the door? * “Did you fill up the tank like I told you? ” she asks. She is sixty-five. She is also forty-eight. “Once we get on the road, I don’t want to have to stop for gas. ” He looks at her for a moment, bobs his head, and turns back to the television. “Aren’t you going to answer me? ” “I don’t even know what you’re talking about, Mom. ” “The tank. Did you fill up the tank? ” Sighing, he mutes the program he is watching about ancient people in Peru. He has always wanted to see the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. Several years ago, he embraced the fact that he will never go. “Why would I fill up the car?
We never go anywhere but to the grocery store once a week. ” She laughs and shakes her head. “You can be so dull sometimes. The Grand Canyon! ” “The Grand Canyon? ” “We’re leaving tomorrow. ” “Mom, we went to the Grand Canyon over fifteen years ago. Don’t you remember? ” She raises a finger to correct him, pauses, looks off into nowhere with her eyes unfocused. The finger moves to her bottom lip. “But, I …” He watches her for a time as her face voids of all emotion, all evidence of thought. He thinks of the Grand Canyon, which they visited shortly after he retired from the factory on disability.
On his first day without a job, he cashed in almost all their chips and bought a motor home. They drove it all over the country – but first, to the Grand Canyon. They called it The Big Adventure, their three year jaunt from one ocean to the other and back again. They felt so young during that time. He un-mutes his program and, like he does every minute of every day, tries to breathe through the pounding of his heart. “I heard they have mules you can ride down into the canyon,” she says. “You think that’s true? ” Her hand is resting on the table between them. He reaches over and grasps it.
In his mind’s eye he sees her body rocking forward and back as the mule traverses the rocky trail, her reddish-gray hair lit from behind by the desert sun. “I’m sure of it,” he says. * A hand on his shoulder shakes him from sleep. He props himself up in bed and looks at the clock. Nearly four in the morning. “What is it, Mom? What’s wrong? ” “I need to tell you something. ” She is sixty-seven. She is thirty-one. He sits up and turns on the lamp. “Wendell Thurber kissed me on the mouth today,” she says. “Wendell Thurber? ” “We’ve been taking lunch together quite a bit lately and today he kissed me. ” She lowers her eyes to the blanket. He did it before I even knew what was happening. ” George remembers this conversation. It was years and years ago, during a time when she worked at the factory for several months to help save for their first real house. He stares at her but says nothing. “Here’s the thing, George,” she says. “Things haven’t been right with us for a long time. You don’t seem to appreciate me anymore. ” “I appreciate you. ” “You don’t act like it. ” At the time, he hadn’t acted like it. For some reason, he’d fallen into a pattern of ignoring her, of taking her for granted, without even realizing he was doing it.
This was the conversation when she had called him out. “I’ve had a crush on Wendell Thurber for awhile,” she says. “Today, he showed me that he feels the same way. ” She clutches the blanket to her. “I’m telling you this because I love you. I just want you to know that there are other men out there who might treat me like I deserve to be treated. ” It was quite a chance she took. He could have gotten angry, called her a whore. He could have left. She bet their lives together on his reaction to a kiss from another man. And it worked. Instead of getting angry, he held her in his arms. He changed.
He started being nice to her again. And then a wonderful thing happened. The more he was kind to her, and did things just to make her happy, the more she did the same thing for him in return. Soon, it was like a contest to see who could be the best spouse, who could give the most love. Smiling, he draws her into his arms. “I’ll change,” he says. “I promise. ” “What are you talking about? ” she says. He looks down and sees that her eyes are fixed on the clock. “It’s four in the morning,” she says. “What are you doing up? ” “I … couldn’t sleep. ” “Well, turn off the light and try harder. She lies back and turns roughly onto her side. He looks at her for a long moment. Then he turns off the lamp and closes his stinging eyes to the dark. * “I know you stole my ring,” she says. “Where is it? ” Her eyes are narrow but full of fire. She is twenty-three and sixty-eight. “I don’t know where it is, Mom. ” He is standing in the kitchen, pebbles of broken glass from the coffee pot all around his bare feet. “You’re a liar. ” “You must have hid it again. Just calm down and we’ll go look for it. ” She roars, a sound he did not think she was capable of making, and picks up the fruit bowl.
Pulling his arms up over his face, he says, “Please don’t throw anything else at me, Mom. ” “Stop calling me that! I’m not your mother. You’re just a dirty old man. ” “Don’t you recognize me? It’s me, George. ” She slams the bowl back to the counter, hard enough to crack it. “You’re not my George. You’re an old man. You’ve got me trapped here. You stole all my money, and now you took my wedding ring. ” “That’s not true. ” She says nothing for a moment, breathing hard. “I gave you that ring,” he says. “I wouldn’t ever take it away from you. ” She breathes faster, nearly gasping.
Tears ring her eyes and that scrapes at his heart more than anything else. “Please,” he says. Suddenly, she turns and runs out of the kitchen. He hears the slam of the front screen door, and with thoughts of her in the street, missing, hurt, he steps across the broken glass and runs after her. He has not run so hard in years. His heart feels large, bloated in his chest. He brings her down in the mud by the road, his twisted fingers, gnarled by arthritis, pulling at her nightgown. She slaps his face, pounds his chest. He only has the strength to hold her where she is, writhing in the cold mud. Soon she ceases thrashing.
Her body curls and shakes. He coaxes her to stand and then walk back to the house. When the warm water of the shower is running, he stands in the tub next to her and moves her beneath the spray. The mud rolls from her white hair and her white skin and mixes with the blood that spins in pink spirals from his feet. * She is sixteen. The old man is staring at her again, but she ignores it as she always does. She has more important things to think about than the nervous, always-crying old man. George is coming today. She knows he is coming to ask if he can court her. He courted her sister for a few weeks, but that went nowhere.
Her sister is pretty, but George couldn’t stop looking over his shoulder at the younger girl with long, dark hair. Today, he is coming for her. She steps out onto the front porch. A dirt path trails away from her door, down the hill into the holler, and then around a bend where it disappears into a cove of pines. On the other side of those pines is the wooden bridge that spans the Sandy River and then the railroad tracks. She turns her head and sees that the old man is out on the porch now, sitting with his hands crossed in his lap. “What do you want? ” she says to him. Raising his hands in innocence, he replies, “Why, nothing, Mom.
I’m just watching the TV. ” The old man is senile. She hardly understands a thing he says. She turns back to the path. And there he is, emerging from the pines, wearing jeans and a white t-shirt draped loosely over his thin but sturdy frame. He walks with an easy gait, a little bowlegged, as he makes the bend and then lowers his head for the trek up the long hill. After a time, he looks up and she waves. He acknowledges only with a dip of his head. This is a man too proud to wave, but not too proud to pick a bouquet of wildflowers which she now sees clutched in one of his fists.
Those flowers make her smile, and in the back of her mind the words to a song begin to form. She knows without the slightest of doubts that this is the man she will love for the rest of her life. “Who are you waving at, Mom? ” the old man says. “My husband,” she says. “Well, I’m right over here. You’re waving at the wall. ” The poor old man. He is senile, but kind. She turns and waves to him. Lifting his hand in return, he says, “Hello, darling. ” * The faces are all around her, hovering. She cannot move, but she can watch them. The faces have no names.
Within her, there are no memories because she is an infant. She has a vague sense that something has been stripped from her, torn away against her will, but this does not anger her. The faces bring her comfort. For even though they have no names, she knows that they love her, and that she loves them in return. She feels herself breathe. Slowly. In and out. The faces eclipse her vision, one at a time. Unknown words fall from lips. Tears fall from sad eyes. She breathes in each face and it soothes her. Last is a face that feels familiar. Its shape is familiar – its gritty texture as a cheek presses against her cheek.
Familiar lips touch her forehead. She watches this face and realizes that while all information has been stripped away, emotion has remained. Untouched. The face fills her with security, and she finds she has the strength to fall backward one last time. * She is in the womb, surrounded by warm water. In the water, there is no need to breathe. So she stops. Her eyes slide closed. She sees George in front of her. He is far away, but he has made the bend. She knows they won’t be together for some time, but that is fine. His head is bent down and he has begun the climb up the long hill.