Story and Structure


After reading the first chapter of "Story and Structure",
by Laurence Perrine, I feel that "The Child by Tiger"
written by Thomas Wolfe, is primarily interpretive
literature, not escape literature. One of the reasons I
feel this way is that "escape literature" is written purely
for pleasure, while "interpretive literature" is written
for pleasure as well as to help us understand the world
around us. Interpretive literature educates, asks questions
about life and presents some aspects of life that we may
not want to deal with. "The Child by Tiger" is interpretive
literature because of the way the author presents the
story, the way it ends, the way it educates us, and
especially how it helps us understand man's darker nature.
The fact that the story is interpretive rather than escape
literature is shown in the way the author presents the
story. The protagonist looks back on the events that
unfolded twenty-five years earlier. He has had a very long
time to reflect on it. He is looking back in the hope that
he can make some sense out of it all. The author uses this
situation to his advantage. We see it on the second page of
the story where the author writes "He had, he said, only
recently received his discharge from the Army." The fact
that the author put in the "he said" shows that the
protagonist is second guessing what Dick Prosser had said.
This reflective outlook is a good position from which to
teach the audience. We learn about death the same way as
the protagonist did. This is an ideal way to catch the
attention of the audience and to educate them, a
characteristic of interpretive literature.
Another reason this story is interpretive is the way it
ends. In "The Most Dangerous Game," which I feel is an
example of escape literature, we are left with a playful
ending. We are given the opportunity to decide if Rainsford
becomes the hunter or if he just leaves. No such ending is
left in"The Child by Tiger." We should also note that the
story does not end with the death of Dick Prosser. The
author wants to impart a sense of the after-shock on us.
This real-life facet is a trait of interpretive literature.
We learn about people who brag about being part of the
hunt. We learn that Prosser underlined a particular portion
of the Bible. This teaches us that the act was premeditated
because Prosser knew that he would soon be "walking through
the valley of death." Since most escape literature has a
happy ending, we can see that this is not escape literature.
Most importantly the story is interpretive because the
author is trying to help us understand man's darker side.
From time to time we read about someone "flipping out" and
killing a bunch of people. It happened recently in
Dunblane, Scotland, and in Oklahoma City. When we ask
ourselves why something like this happened, we are unable
to answer. In our story, a young man of 30 goes insane and
kills about 10 people. The author does not try to justify
the act. What he does do is try to shed a little light on
one of these situations. This illumination is the educative
aspect of interpretive literature.
Another example of the educative aspect of interpretive
literature is shown when the boys find the gun. Dick
Prosser makes a secret pact with them. He promises to take
them out to shoot it if they don't tell anyone about it.
The boys agree and in so doing they form a bond with
Prosser. At this time we believe that Prosser was planning
his act. This teaches us about how man's darker side allows
him to use his friendship to keep from getting caught. This
teaching process is a trait of interpretive literature. 

The next example of man's darker side is the end of Dick
Prosser's life. After Dick had expended all of his ammo, he
threw away his gun, sat down and removed his shoes. At this
point there was no reason to kill him. The townspeople
could have captured him and taken him into custody. Instead
they shot him. In fact even after he was dead they
continued to shoot him. They shot him 300 times. This is
morbid but it shows man's darker side. Laurence Perrine, in
"Story and Structure", states that interpretive literature
"helps us understand our troubles." In "The Child by Tiger"
we are trying to understand the troubles of mankind.
Thus, "The Child by Tiger" is interpretive literature
because of the way it is presented, the way it ends, and
what it teaches us about man's darker side. This story asks
some pretty hard questions about life. These are the type
of questions that would probably not be found in escape


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