This was one of those short stories where I'm not sure you'd actually call it a short story. I seldom read anything with split narration. Even rarer is a piece like this in which the split narration is divided between a consistently inconsistent narrator and a very beaurocratic type who has nothing better to do than to point out the problems with the consistently inconsistent narrative. Glenda Adams, y u do dis?
Reflection: “Reconstruction of an Event” by Glenda Adams
If you desire to read a conventional narrative, Reconstruction of an Event by Glenda Adams is not the text for you. A key element that may cause frustration is the presence of two voices narrating the text. Several interpretations of the voices in the text were offered in class as we discussed ROAE. One suggestion was that both voices are the author: the first voice is her narrating the event; the second voice is her censoring herself. Another suggestion was that the first voice is the daughter retelling the event to an authority (such as the police), and the second voice is the authority figure opposing her claims. My initial reading, influenced by an academic background in creative arts and critiquing creative works, was that the two voices represented a student author and a harsh teacher or editor. In this regard, I interpreted ROAE as a metafiction (Orlowski, 1996).
Between the two voices of the text there is a clear power relationship. The first voice always submits to the correctional authority of the second voice. This is not necessarily a concern in itself, as the voice in power may represent a legitimate authority. What does concern me is how I initially inferred the identity of each role based on power and gender stereotypes. The first voice is obedient, emotive and prefers to use enriching language to bring life to the story. The obedience and emotive focus of the first voice resonated with my socially constructed views of youth. I inferred the focus on the daughter and enrichment as signs of femininity (Cameron, 2005). The second voice is authoritative, objective and insists on purging any enriching language. The second voice attempts to remove life from the story. Because of this, based on socially constructed assumptions about power and authority, I’m inclined to read the second voice as older and masculine (Cameron, 2005). The most frustrating issue I encountered with the second voice is that it never gives positive feedback. Even after the final reconstruction, the second voice replies with a cold: “No.” The second voice consistently objects to anything other than the facts, which makes it ironic that none of my inferences about gender allude to any objective truth about the text. Objectively, the voices are anonymous.
After multiple readings, I started to recognise the jacaranda as a symbol of life, joy and safety (Moon, 2001). The jacaranda is introduced in the first paragraph, in which all is pleasant and there is no hint of danger: joy and safety. It is reintroduced in the tenth construction of the event in which, upon recognising danger inside the house, the mother takes the daughter outside and “leans her against the jacaranda tree”: safety. Finally, in the twelfth construction of the event, the father is taken out to the jacaranda tree where he revives: life.
While the use of suspense in ROAE was clear from my first reading, it took several readings before the use of foreshadowing became clear to me. Adams uses suspense effectively to turn thirteen lines of plain facts in the third-last paragraph into five pages of text (Moon, 2001). In my initial reading, every time the second voice opposed the first voice, I became curious about how the first voice would modify the story. Likewise, every time the first voice changed the story, I became curious about what oppositions the second voice would give. Because each construction of the event contradicts the previous construction, it took a full awareness of where the text was heading before I recognised the clues throughout the text. In the third construction, the father is introduced as a man of unrest, whose daughter is “driving him into an untimely grave” by going out at night. In his only lines of speech, he declares: “They will rue the day...and they will all be sorry when I’m gone.” In my initial reading, I took this as lightly as the family are said to take it. This may be due to personal acculturation into a society in which the Dominant Discourse sees stress in middle-age, middle-class fathers as normal and trivial (Gee, 1991). In the final construction, it is revealed that the father has committed suicide, and the daughter seemingly feels guilt for going out and later ignoring the signs of unusual behaviour the night before.
ROAE could be used in the classroom to generate discussion about how different writing techniques influence reading. Despite this, I believe it could serve more profoundly as a tool for investigating deeper social issues. Specifically, this text can open up discussions about students’ assumptions about gender and power. Sensitivity should be given to students who feel responsible for issues affecting their families, as this text alludes to the daughter’s sense of guilt without challenging or dealing with her sense of guilt.
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