Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Bonner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bonner. Show all posts

01 November, 2015

Marita Bonner, "The Whipping"

First published in 1939 in the Crisis, "The Whipping" tells of Lizabeth's incarceration for killing her six-year old Benny. She certainly didn't mean to hurt him but she was sentenced to life in prison where she knew she'd never pay off her debt to the commissary. She spent her youth in Mississippi until she and her mother decided to go north to Chicago to look for Pa who had left earlier. The later part of the story takes place during the Depression. The earlier part of the story shows the bleak and harsh circumstances of people trying to work off their "debts" to the landowners. "'Y'all can make it on meal and molasses until you work off your debts!' he told Lizabeth." Ma had been trying to pay off the "debts" for forty years. They decide to leave and have to make elaborate plans to escape. The story begins at the end and then moves into the backstory of how Lizabeth ended up at the reformatory.

"A commissary. She understood a commissary. The same grey hopeless drudge--the same long unending row to hoe--lay before her.

The same debt, year in, year out.

How long had they said she had to stay?

As long as she lived. And she was only thirty now.

But she understood a commissary and a debt that grew and grew while you worked to pay it off. And she would never be able to pay for little Benny."

Wikipedia page for Bonner web page for Bonner
African American Registry web page for Bonner
finding aid for Marita Bonner's papers, etc. at the Harvard archive

Marita Bonner, "The Hands"

First published in the journal, Opportunity, in 1925, "The Hands: A Story" was subsequently included in Bonner's posthumous collection, Frye Street and Environs: The Collected Works of Maria Bonner in 1987. Bonner lived from 1898 to 1971. She went to Radcliffe College then married--her married name was Occomy--and moved to Chicago. Her papers are in the archives at Harvard.

"The Hands: A Story" tells of the hard working narrator's life of struggle and ultimate success. The story begins in first-person male point of view and then shifts to second which still reads like first and then moves outward again to third as though viewing one's own life from various viewpoints. Or maybe compartmentalizing aspects of a life that have been difficult and hence achieve some distance. The story is only about five pages long but covers a lifetime.

"I saw his [my] hands..." The reader has a clue early on that POV is going to be shifting, "There are games I have to play by myself when I feel particularly ugly, particularly unfortunate." The first game is called "being-where-I-was-not" and the second game, "Christ-in-all-men," which served as survival techniques.