Friday, March 6, 2009

Mystic River/A Different Road

A Different Road was a short story that detailed the change in the relationship between a husband and wife, after they both experienced a kidnapping late in life. The reader was not told right away about the kidnapping, but it was clear there was a traumatic incident. The details unfolded in pieces, and obviously the Kitteridges both were still trying to deal with a traumatic event. The author suggested that they had enjoyed a long and happy married life. Henry was very outgoing and friendly. Olive was kind and helpful to others, but more reserved. As the story continued, the reader discovered that on the way home from a social evening Henry and Olive stopped by the hospital so Olive could use the bathroom. The nurse was concerned for her, and convinced her to go to the examining room. While there, she, the doctor, the nurse, and later Henry were held captive in the bathroom as part of a drug theft. Olive was in the humiliating position of sitting on the floor in her little hospital gown. Henry was unable to save her, but during the encounter they both said many things to and about each other to try and keep the situation under control. They each reacted differently to the kidnapper. Although they lived through the incident, each was changed in their feelings about themselves and each other. Mystic River had the incident of the kidnapping that forever changed the lives of three young friends, Jimmy, Sean and Dave. Throughout the story, we see at different points how they are all haunted by their actions during the incident. It changed the relationship between the three of them, and also, influenced the way they thought of themselves.
At one point in A Different Road, when discussing the difficulties they were having in their relationship, Olive and Henry stated that they both said things during the kidnapping that were hurtful, and it would take a while to get over it. In Mystic River there was not much if any conversation between the three boys about their changed relationships.
In Mystic River the characters were greatly affected by the place in which they lived. A Different Road is about a couple whose history of married life is common, but whose acceptance and dealing with a life changing event caused them to part ways a little. In Mystic River Sean was a type of rescuer, due to his role in law enforcement. Altlhough he did not try to be close friends with Dave, you could tell there was a connection, and he was commited to help his old friend Jimmy by finding his daughters murdere. In A Different Road Olive was a type of rescuer. We already knew she volunteered to help others before the incident, but after it was over, she had felt a bond with one of the kidnappers. She called him Blue Mask. He seemed a little confused, and nervous, definitely not the mastermind of the criminals. At the end of the story, the reader is surprised to learn that she has established a relationship with Blue Mask while he is in prison, and is making him a gift.

I think one of the differences in these two stories is that in Mystic River the main characters never really stepped out of the roles they saw themselves in. They responded in the expected ways. But in A Different Road I think the difficulty Olive and Henry had after the incident was because both of them responded in a way that seemed foreign to the other one. They did not know how to handle it when their spouse stepped out of the expected role.
Both of these stories focused a lot on emotions, but I think the way it was approached was a little different. A Different Road focused on the struggle with feelings, but each character became more inward about it. There were not many outward actions or major decisions that came out of their feelings. Mystic River was largely about actions and decisions the characters made, based on the feelings they were experiencing. Mystic River would not be as effective at all as a short story. The depth of it was its' beauty. A Different Road was good as a short story. A longer version would have become tedious. I enjoyed the short story this week, although it was depressing. The novel was excellent. Mystic River was more methodical, which I attribute to a male author. A Different Road had a less direct plot and skirted the issues a bit, but led to the crux of the story without being distracting, which I attribute to the style of a female writer.

1 comment:

  1. I had read this short story a couple of weeks ago and never looked at it this way. I really liked how you compared the two about how the stepped out of their roles and were able to see things differently after the incident. This is why I like the blogging function of this class because it helps other see things differently when they wouldn't have thought of it themselve.