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“The Curse” Short Story

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                This is a paper about a forty-nine year old man by the name of Mitchell Hayes.  One night Mr. Mitchell feels depressed, tired and like he is old and so he decides to take a walk.  While taking his walk, Mr. Mitchell witnesses a horrible crime while he is held at bay.  After witnessing the horrible crime, Mr. Mitchell has to work through his feelings of guilt and sorrow.

     by Andre Dubus.  The story is about a man named Mitchell Hayes.  Mitchell Hayes is a forty-nine year old bartender who witnesses a rape crime.  Mr. Hayes witnesses the rape while talking a walk one night.  It happens just minutes before the bar is getting ready to close (Dubus, 1988).

                Five men riding on motorbikes hold Mr. Mitchell captive while they rape a young woman.  Witnessing this horrible crime caused Mr. Mitchell to become distressed. He also felt guilty because he felt that he should have made a greater effort to save the girl from this horrible wrongdoing.  Mr. Mitchell’s family and friends as well as the police attempt to console Mr. Hayes by reassuring him that he made the best decision in a situation like that, but Mr. Hayes just could not be comforted.  He continued to feel ashamed about his decision not to put forth a greater effort to help the young lady.  He believed that he could have somehow prevented the rape from happening (Dubus, 1988).

                Mr. Hayes had to come to the realization that sometimes it is hard to decide what the best decision in certain situations is.  Sometimes it is unclear what the right or wrong answer is.  There are times when a person will not know what to do to produce the best outcome or the safest possible outcome for all involved.

                Mr. Mitchell Hayes is the main character in the story.  The story circles and focuses on him, his feelings and thoughts.  Mitchell Hayes’ thoughts and behavior is important in the because the story reveals how he transforms from a lively, happy-go-lucky, and confident man to an unthinking, frenzied, hotheaded man who feels old and worthless.  Mr. Hayes continually struggled with thoughts and concerns of feeling weak, helpless and old as he is growing older.  Therefore, the fact that he even encountered a situation as such as a rape crime in addition to his decision not to help the young lady made him feel even more helpless, weak and old.  However, as people grow older, they must learn that they may need to accept the fact that there will be situations that they can do nothing about.

                Indirect characterization such as the words, thoughts and actions of Mr. Hayes is applied in describing Mr. Hayes.  Mr. Hayes makes mentions several times in the story that he could have stopped the crime or that he should have stopped the crime.  His thoughts are also encompassed with this notion which results in him speaking his thoughts and feelings out of his mouth.  He also thought to himself after the bikers left that he wanted to talk to her, touch her, or even hold her hand, but he couldn’t (Dubus, 1988).   His actions are shown when he picks up the young girls shoes from off of the floor and positions them beside her as he squats near her face.  In the story, “The Curse”, the author Andre Dubus also makes use of qualifiers and negatives by using words like “but” and “not” within the beginning sentences.

                After witnessing the rape, Mr. Hayes felt that he understood what it was like to be old; tired and full of fatigue outside any relief of rest through sleep.  The story is a heartrending story and the reader is able to understand the emotions of the main character and what older people may be feeling and the struggles and various concerns they may endure as they grow older.  The story also reveals how people may have to struggle with decisions they make throughout life and how they have to come to grips with the fact that the decision is in the past and they may not be able to do anything about it other than learn from what happened.

                Mr. Hayes was an older man, but he was not a small-framed man.  He was around 170 pounds. However, his weight fluctuated up and down.  Mr. Hayes was also five feet and ten inches tall.  However, after witnessing the rape as he was guarded by one of the other bikers while the rape occurred, he somehow felt that his body was much shorter and thinner (Dubus, 1988).  This distortion of himself and lack of confidence caused Mr. Hayes to feel smaller and much older than he really was.  Mr. Hayes struggles with knowing who he really is and what he is capable of accomplishing.  His allows his age to make him feel incompetent and weak.  He allows his age to make him feel that age means everything.  He appears that Mr. Hayes felt that being young is the only way that he or anyone could be strong and confident.  Many people feel like this, however, as they age and begin to feel tired and the struggles of aging.

                Mitchell Hayes was tall and not thin in stature.  However, when put in a frightening and dangerous position in addition to growing old, he felt short and thin.  What’s interesting is that he not only felt short and thin which was just the opposite of what he was in reality, but he also believed that he was short and thin to the point that he transformed into an entirely different person that resulted in him becoming a careless, unhappy individual who once was a dynamic care-free individual.

                Mr. Hayes experience reveals the importance of taking care of one’s thought life.  What a person thinks on continually, he will eventually believe even if it is not the case of truth.  In addition what a person believes he or she will eventually begin to speak it out of his mouth.  What Mr. Hayes constantly thought on eventually produced in his life. His later words, actions, and behavior were the result of his thoughts.  Although family, friends and even the police tried to console him and reassure him that he made the right decision and that there is nothing else that he could do about it; Mr. Hayes chose to continue to think negatively about the situation which resulted in Mitchell Hayes becoming a very negative person.

                “The Curse” is a very good story.  The writer and author Andre’ Dubus writes in a way that allows the reader a chance to feel and experience what the main character feels and experiences.  The story also gives the reader a chance to personally identify with Mr. Hayes’s fears, as well as what it may be like for many as they experience growing older.


    Dubus, A. (1988). Selected Stories:  The Curse. New York


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    Frequently Asked Questions

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    What is the curse story about?
    Loosely rooted in the rural Muslim communities of Tamil Nadu, these stories shine a light on the complex dramas governing the daily lives of most women moving through the world. In the title story, a young spinster is caught between her desire for marriage and a dark family history that haunts her like a curse.
    Where is the setting of the story the Curse?
    The setting in The Curse is pretty mundane: the first location is some bar near the boardwalk of a beach. Andre Dubus' writing style is actually very similar to Ernest Hemingway's style. He states facts, which in some ways break the classic rule of "show, don't tell".

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