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Kent Nelson’s Irregular Flight



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    Analysis on Irregular Flight

    In Kent Nelson’s Irregular Flight, he introduces multiple meanings to “irregular flight.” Literally, when the story refers to irregular flight, it is talking about how a Cook’s Petrel bird flies an irregular flight pattern. In actual context, he also implies an irregular pattern between the two individuals that are searching for this bird, however, it not clearly stated and that is one mistake of a couple that this author makes. Nelson uses many standard writing techniques that try to grab the attention of the reader, however, they create a sense of confusion and do not necessarily compliment the story as whole in the end.

    When Nelson introduces the main character as being an unnamed male and the second character as a female named Clair, the reader can reasonably infer that there is some sort of awkward relation between the two. It is not until the end that the reader learns that Clair is in fact in love with man, however, the large problem posed is that at the beginning of the story, Clair told the man that she is married. It could be inferred that Clair had lied to the man about how she was married just to grab his attention. Before that she tells him that her ‘husband’ was not actually transferred, she just wanted to make up a reason to leave her current job. From this it can reasonably be inferred that Clair does make information up either to just create a reason to get away or impress others.

    The last thing that is stated to possibly be made up is the question if the bird they were looking for was even there. The story is left at a major cliff-hanger, which is more than likely a technique Nelson uses to grab attention up until the last few words of the story.

    Throughout the story, the man questions why Clair never ask about his personal life, and really all he knew was that Clair was married. Here the author does a fairly good job at hiding how the man does quite possibly have feelings for her, and even when Clair comes out to him and ask him if that he loves her, he quotes “You’re married.” (qtd. in Nelson). This is of course used to hide if there are really feelings for her.

    This only makes her question more and then out of nowhere she starts to disrobe, and really takes the reader somewhere else away from the story. Nelson messes up here, in my opinion, as it really should have been transitioned somehow, rather than just thrown out there. Nelson does use transitions throughout the majority of the story, which is mainly why it becomes a large attention grabber for her to just go from drinking beer to coming out to him. I can see why the author would want to use this type of writing method, but it does not allow for a good story flow.

    Another large flaw in Nelson’s writing is how he splits the two major happenings and there is no main focus with the story, the reader is either reading about the birds, or listening to how the man go on about his personal life and the relation he has with Clair. Nelson does use a good structure for building the time line of events, with the start of the story easing into a more intense ending really keeps the readers attention. It starts out by immediately learning that Clair is a medium wealthy person by the Land Rover she drives, and that the man drives Toyota Corolla.

    A 2014 Land Rover Range Rover cost about $85,000 versus a 2014 Toyota Corolla at about $17,000. This data ties into the story by seeing that it is weird that Clair is talking about wanting to quit her job and how the man is content with his job with the government, even though they both take stabs at how the government hides things from the public. From this it is seen that Clair is not very content with things, so thus meaning that she could in fact have a husband, but not content with him. Nelson does not make things clear and has much ambiguity throughout the story.

    The search for the petrel starts out from the beginning and from research there is much symbolism as to why Nelson chose this bird in particular to use for the story. The bird itself is very small in nature and thus making it hard to visibly spot. The bird is very native to the whole Pacific Ocean (VU Cook’s Petrel). The petrel is not necessarily a rare bird, but is rare to certain areas, such as any inland area. The greatest area to spot one is the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia, which is opposite of where they were trying to spot this bird, however, it could logically appear there during certain seasons. Nelson did do his research on the petrel itself, but doe not focus that knowledge clearly in the story.

    Nelson himself went to Yale and graduated Harvard with a degree in environmental law, which he decided not to use and instead study birds and write short stories. With only taking two English classes at Yale and none at Harvard, his main experiences were gained by criticism received from readers of his previous stories. I am not trying to criticize his work at all because he has a great talent and tremendous knowledge on the topic, especially for someone who did not plan to end up with a career in writing.

    In the end, Nelson simply has the knowledge to write a story like this, but does not clearly convey all the messages needed and leaves much ambiguous. He uses writing techniques that grab the reader’s attention, however, they do not compliment the story very well. Nelson, in the end, knows a lot about the birds themselves, but decides to put too much emphasis on a side story within. Works Cited

    Nelson, Kent. “Irregular Flight.” Literature and the Environment: A Reader on Nature and Culture. Ed. Lorraine Anderson, Scott Slovic, and John P. O’Grady. 2nd ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 8-15. Print. “VU Cook’s Petrel Pterodroma cookii.” BirdLife International. QPQ Software Ltd. n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2013. .

    Kent Nelson’s Irregular Flight. (2016, Nov 24). Retrieved from

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