Warren Hoang Professor B. Lewis English 1A 3 October 2012 Opposite ends of the same stick In “Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story” by Russell Banks, the main character Ron believing himself to be so much more above the woman he once dated because of his great looks. Ron was a successful lawyer in the state of New Hampshire when he met a woman named Sarah Cole. Except there was a catch—Sarah Cole was the most homely woman Ron had ever seen.
Despite that, Ron and Sarah eventually engage in a relationship that would soon take a turn for the worst.
Now, 10 years later, Ron tries to relive those past events with Sarah, to figure out what if what he had done to Sarah was wrong. Ron comes to the conclusion that he mistreated Sarah because he was so obsessed with the idea that he was so much better looking than her, and he looks back to those events with much regret, wishing he could change his ways, and although they were on different ends of the social spectrum, he truly did love her for everything that she was.
The author starts off the story with specific traits of the characters, particularly highlighting the ego that exists within the main character Ron.
Banks puts extra effort into emphasizing that Ron believed himself to be a very attractive and desirable man. “…I must tell you that I was extremely handsome then and if Sarah were not dead, you’d think I were cruel, for I must tell you that Sarah was very homely. In fact, she was the homeliest woman I have ever known” (Banks 1) The narrator explicitly states that his opinion of himself was that he was extremely handsome—reinforcing the idea that Ron had quite the big ego. Ron is effortlessly attractive, a genetic wonder, tall, slender, symmetrical, and clean. ” Ron is heavily characterized as someone who is simply in love with himself, he thinks of himself as the closest thing to perfection in a male—an archaic superficial reflection of the female fantasy. . “He goes on reading. He takes a second sip of his drink. Everyone in the room, the three or four men scattered along the bar, the tall, thin bartender, and several people in the booths at the back, watches him do these ordinary things” (3). He goes as far as believing imself to be somewhat of a celebrity—that everyone around him spends their time observing him, envying him, wishing they could be the perfection that was Ron. He believes himself to be the center of everyone’s attention, and seemingly does a great job of being humble about it. He is convinced that everyone around him thinks he is special, so special that they would admire the little things he does—read the paper, light his cigarette, sip his drink. The truth is, I was pretty, extremely so, and she was not, extremely so, and I knew it and she knew it.
She walked out the door of Osgood’s determined to make love to a man much prettier than any she had seen up close before, and I walked out determined to make love to a woman much homelier than any I had made love to before. We were, in a sense, equals (11). Ron states that because of how above average he is in comparison to how below average Sarah is, that there was an emotional connection—one that was acceptable because the difference in superficial reflection archaic social status was so large that it balanced out in perfect equilibrium—as long as she is ugly and he is beautiful, they will operate under perfect harmony.
At least, that was how Ron previously justified his relations with her. As Ron looks back at it now, he slowly begins to understand that his former self was just very good at making up excuses to do things that he wanted to do, even if they were not acceptable by his social standards. He assumed that although she was so repulsive, his attractiveness would make up for it, but in reality, he slowly began to create an attachment towards Sarah, one that he was not aware of at the time because he was so engulfed in his own ego.
Because of this, Ron continues to take Sarah for granted up until the final confrontation where he decides that he has had enough of this woman and selfishly kicks her out his life. Ron was so blinded by his obsession over his seemingly perfect demeanor and stunning good looks that he couldn’t wrap his head around the idea that this lowly woman, Sarah, could steal his heart and take him on such a roller coaster ride of emotion. So much to the point where a decade later, he has to look back on those events from start to finish, slowly and thoroughly so he could dissect how he could have been so oblivious to his own narcissism.
The narrator, Ron, is frequently reflecting on his past actions with Sarah as he tells the story because of his current conflicting morale about whether or not what he did was morally right or wrong. I listened as eagerly and carefully as I had before, again, with the same motives, to keep her in front of me, to draw her forward from the context of her life and place her, as if she were an object, into the context of mine. I did not know how cruel this was.
When you have never done a thing before and that thing is not simply and clearly right or wrong, you frequently do not know if it is a cruel thing, you just go ahead and do it, and maybe later you’ll be able to determine whether you acted cruelly (5). Ron admits that what he had done was wrong—treating Sarah as if she were an object, a mere toy for his enjoyment. However he claims that at the time, he was unaware of just how cruel he was being, stating that he’s never done it before.
But through this admission, it becomes apparent that Ron looks back on his actions and acknowledges the insensitivity he displayed towards her. The whole subject matter seems to have thrown Ron into quite the mental dilemma. “I’m still the man in this story, and Sarah is still the woman, but I’m telling it this way because what I have to tell you now confuses me, embarrasses me, and makes me sad, and consequently, I’m likely to tell it falsely” (9). As far as the story goes, it has completely been told from Ron’s perspective—his memory of the events ten years ago.
Normally, it would be safe to assume that the details from Ron would be accurate; however it becomes evident that even Ron himself acknowledges the complexity of the entire situation. So much to the point where he admits that his emotions may be clouding his judgment—and more than likely the retold story may not be of exact accuracy. That seems to be the thorn in the leg for Ron—because of the fact that the memories of Sarah have been the subject of his stress, he worries about the flaws of his memory, details he may have forgotten.
Ron wants to be precise and thorough, from start to finish. He is aware that embellishment and personal bias plague his recollection thus making it more difficult for him to reflect on the actions and ultimately be the judge on whether or not what he did was right or wrong. I’m trying to tell the story so that I can understand what happened between me and Sarah Cole that summer and early autumn ten years ago. To say we were lovers says very little about what happened; to say we were friends says even less.
No, if I’m to understand the whole thing, I have to say the whole thing, for, in the end, what I need to know is whether what happened between me and Sarah Cole was right or wrong. Character is fate, which suggests that if a man can know and then to some degree control his character, he can know and to that same degree control his fate (15). The biggest regret for Ron during his escapades with Sarah was that at the time, he did not know of his character.
Ron was not aware of his tendencies, his narcissism, his negligence and insensitivity to the feelings of others and therefore, was not able to control his fate. So he looks back with great remorse, realizing that if he had known back then what he knew now, he would not have done those things to Sarah, the woman whom he didn’t even know he loved yet. Although Ron and Sarah ended up not working out—the fact that ten years from then, he is still revisiting those memories with her bring light to the possibility that there may have been some words left unsaid between them.
He relishes in the memories that meant little to him then, but strong and symbolic to him now. He picks up a TV Guide from the coffee table and flips through it, stops, runs a finger down the listings, stops, puts down the magazine and changes the channel. He does not once connect the magazine in his hand to the woman who has just left his apartment, even though he knows she spends her days packing TV Guides into cartons that get shipped to warehouses in distant parts of New England.
He’ll think of the connection some other night, but by then the connection will be merely sentimental. It’ll be too late for him to understand what she meant by “different (16) That TV guide was symbolic to the difference in social status between the two—Sarah was just a lowly common worker. So insignificant that, at the time he had failed to recognize the simple things that stitch together a relationship between two people. The younger, naive, and narcissistic Ron had not noticed what she meant when Sarah said that they were “different”.
It took ten years for Ron to piece together the jigsaw puzzle in his mind—that by “different”, she meant that she accepted their differences and wanted to show him what it was like to be similar. “…we each simultaneously removed our own clothing, my robe, her blouse and skirt, my pajama top, her slip and bra, my pajama bottom, her underpants, until we were both standing naked in the harsh, gray light, two naked members of the same species. ” (15) Even though Ron was handsome, was a lawyer, and looked at Sarah as just a mere toy for his amusement—he did not realize that those superficial details really did not matter to him.
After work, when the lights go out and the clothes come off—Sarah and Ron are just two naked members of the same species. She was not defined by her occupation, her looks, or her social status—but rather she was defined by the emotional connection she shared with Ron, a connection he would later come to reflect on and regret. “Go on and leave, you ugly bitch,”(Banks 18) he says to her, and as he says those words, one by one they leave his mouth, she’s transformed into the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. “He says the words again, almost tenderly.
Leave, you ugly bitch. Her hair is golden, her brown eyes deep and sad, her mouth full and affectionate, her tears the tears of love and loss, and her pleading, outstretched arms, her entire body, the arms and body of a devoted woman’s cruelly rejected love. ” (Banks 18) She leaves the building, weeping, and now, Ron is back to square one—alone with his thoughts. He genuinely wonders why he felt that way as he was kicking Sarah out of his house. With each and every time he tells the “ugly bitch” to leave, something in Sarah gazed out at him into his soul.
In the moment of his weakness, he isolated himself from the one person whom he shared a love so intense with—and in the moment of her weakness, her beautiful, golden soul reached out to him one last time. “Leave me, you disgusting, ugly bitch. She is wrapped in an envelope of golden light, a warm, dense haze that she seems to have stepped into, as into a carriage. And then she is gone, and he is alone again. ”(Banks 18) At last, it seems the straws Ron has been grasping throughout the entire story have run out. He looks around the room, as if searching for her. Sitting down in the easy chair, he places his face in his hands. ” (Banks 18) Sarah was not just someone Ron loved, she was more than that. To Ron, she was the physical manifestation of love. Sarah was a special brand of love to Ron, one that he can never acquire again–one that he is so regretful for because it is solely his fault that it isn’t there anymore. “It’s not as if she has died; it’s as if he has killed her. ” (18)
Cite this Sarah Cole : a Type of Love Story
Sarah Cole : a Type of Love Story. (2017, Feb 04). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/sarah-cole-a-type-of-love-story/