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Part 6: It Takes a Village

February 17, 2019

As the protagonist (or the speaker in poetry) claims the focus of your attention, consider him/her, nonetheless, as existing at the center of concentric circles.  The tightest, most intimate, perhaps, is his/her body.  The physical setting and supporting characters shape the next circles, and beyond them lies the wider circle of the community in which the action takes place.  In the poetry collection Line Study of a Motel Clerkby Allison Pitinii Davis, this community is Pittsburgh, and its physical as well as linguistic peculiarities define and shape both the experience of the people she writes about and the language she uses.  From the realm of fiction, Richard Russo (especially in Empire Falls) is a writer extraordinarily attuned to the way his characters fit–or do not fit–into the social and economic fabric of a town.  Part of this dimension, of course, is memory, but I’ll save that for another post, and meanwhile, here’s the next challenge:

In your next review, focus on the way the story (sentiment, if it’s poetry) ripples through the wider space of the surrounding community.  Do the social and economic arrangements of the town/apartment block/country come to bear on the actions, feelings, or perceptions of the characters? Does the local community contribute to the conflict that drives the action? Is the group tightly knit and isolated, or disconnected and aloof? Is it, above all, credible in its role and reactions to what happens in the narrative? If not, why? 

Good luck!

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