Perspective Narration In A Summer Tragedy English Literature Essay

1601 words (6 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 English Literature Reference this

Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a university student. This is not an example of the work produced by our Essay Writing Service. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Through the thoughts and feelings of African- American couple Jeff and Jennie Patton in “A Summer Tragedy” by Arna Bontempa, the reader gains an all knowing sense of perspective narration also referred to as third person omniscient. The narrator of this story knows all and sees all within the characters and their building situation. Throughout this story, the reader begins to gain the sense of heart ache, and depression these characters have been going through as old age had taken over their body’s strength and mind, leaving them unable to do a lot of things. The couple worked for a white man they called “old man Stevenson.” Their debt had been building up, and with the loss of five children within a two year time span they felt they had no way out.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Find out more

This story seems to take place down south near in the general area of the Mississippi River.  Due to the fact that the Patton’s had been share crop farmers it can be assumed that this story would have occurred during the Great Depression when the Jim Crow laws were coming into a greater effect and the U.S. constitution was pressing heavily to make blacks and white equal. At this time blacks were earning almost nothing to farm and went into a great debt. Another clue to the time the events in this story would have taken place is given when the Patton’s drive through the countryside in an old Model T Ford. This car was only made and sold during the early turn of the 1900s.

The main characters of this story are share crop farmers Jeff and Jennie Patton. Jeff Patton has farmed the same acres for forty years at the time this story takes place. Life had been very hard and physically damaging on his body and farming along with the laws of the land has kept him stuck in poverty. A stroke had further disabled him than anything including his age. Jeff has an underlying fear that another stroke could this time be fatal leaving him to be a burden on his wife, Jennie, who has been blind for years and is now very fragile herself in age.

Both Jeff and Jennie are still completely sane, but their lives have been set up to deal with far too many losses in a short period of time. These losses included the deaths of five children in a short time span of two years; together they share a grief and depression only understood by those who have once lost children of their own. Farming and old age have guided them toward a mutual pact between the two, one which is not often sought after by people of such an old age to begin with.

On the particular day which the story takes place the Patton’s begin to set their (unknown at this time) plans into motion. The pair decides to dress themselves in their Sunday “best,” then drive down a long dirt road, past their neighbors and people they just didn’t seem to get along with, toward a cliff and then into the Mississippi River below to a sad foreseeable and unfortunate death. Jeff wore a “stiff- bosomed shirt along with a swallow tailed coat,” which although it had been freshly pressed had also been severely destroyed with holes by moths in the years since he had last worn it. Unable to tie it, hands fragile and shaking, his bow tie remained to lie around his neck as he proceeded to ask his wife for help. Jennie, whose body was small and frail, wore old stockings and shoes along with a freshly pressed black silk Sunday dress. “Being blind had been no handicap for her, as she still worked well maneuvering throughout the house as though she could still see.”

The structure of this story begins in the exposition as the Patton’s are getting dressed for a day like any other, and what would be there final drive out of town. Through the rising action, we see the couple begin their two mile journey in their Model T. As the Patton’s set out, Jeff becomes concerned with the simplest of things just the thought of leaving in the car was making him extremely anxious. As Jennie finished changing, Jeff went to pull the car around; here he becomes concerned with the simplest of things. Jeff entered the house for a final time and in a soft yell he called to Jennie, “you reckon I’d oughta lock the do’?” Weighing the thought of the question, Jennie finally answers, “Ne’mind the do,’ I see no cause to lock up things.” As Jeff helped his wife into the car, he began trembling violently as he thought of the act he was about to commit.

“You must be scairt Jeff,” Jennie said out of much concern for her husband, comforting her he replies, “No, baby I ain’t scairt.” This dialouge sets up the conflict of this short story. Both Jeff and Jennie understood their situation and for that choose their love for each other over their own lives. On the way to the river, Jennie senses her husband’s trembling; he was frightened about the trip. All this concern was given for her husband while her own fear was creeping up on her. She didn’t believe that he was completely all right with what action was about to take place and tries to assure him he shouldn’t be afraid and their decision was the right one. They decided the best way to do this was to drive their car into the river. As they drove, they talked about their own strength, job on the farm and friends they had. They talked about how young they were way back when and how old they are now. Then finally on the last mile or so of their trip to the river they talked about the pain he, and Jennie suffered after losing all five of their grown children. Jeff admitted that he would have liked a few more minutes in which to “turn things around in his head.” He thought it childish to be afraid and had to keep going, unaware his wife felt the exact same way.

Find out how UKEssays.com can help you!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

Each individual conflict I believe was both, internal and external, yet separate for each character. Jeff’s conflict had been both internal and external, as he was feeling completely emotional on the inside, and it was being displayed through the violent trembles going through his body. Jennie, on the other hand, was experiencing a complete internal conflict as she saw how upset her husband was through the ride she tried to comfort him while internally she too was second guessing what would soon be an unchangeable decision.

The climax of the story is reached when the car pulls up along the river, and Jennie hears the roaring water in the bed of the river. Suddenly, Jeff’s silence had broken, “Jennie, I can’t do it, I can’t.” She was no longer listening but deep in her own thought as her face became emotionless as she was absorbed in her own thoughts and feelings. Jeff began to do the same; he began thinking of his life and all he had loved, and all he had lost. His thoughts showed no anguish. Suddenly, he became brave and his hands became steady on the steering wheel. He slowed the Model T down, and pulled off to the side of the road, “the river clashed fifty or sixty feet below the surface of the road.” Between the road and Mississippi was a dry clay slope where he parked the car pointed directly at the stream. Mind rushing full of emotion, he then placed his foot firmly on the accelerator, at this moment neither of them were scared any longer, as the car moved quickly down toward the water. Inside the couple sat motionless. In an instant, the car hit the river water and sank slowly out of sight.

The theme of this story seems to be that suicide can often seem like an escape or a weak way to deal with problems. But does that always stand true? When individuals such as the Patton’s have lived such long, hard lives, they begin to only wish to maintain a sense of pride for everything they have accomplished even though they lost so much. Dying with pride, dignity and respect on your own terms can be understandable in situations of a life filled with resentment. “A Summer Tragedy” presents the true meaning of hopelessness; feeling if you are in a bad enough situation that you have to take drastic measures to solve or get out of it, without really looking at the whole picture.

Throughout this short story the author used several literary devices but two that stood out to me were the use of dialect and allusion throughout this writing. Through dialect such as the conversations between Jeff and Jennie as they discuss their feelings on the way to the river, “You must be scairt Jeff” Jennie said out of much concern for her husband, comforting her he replies “No, baby I ain’t scairt.” Portraying this dialect gives the reader a sense of what life for practically all African Americans was like in the 1930’s they were not that well educated, if they were even educated at all so their way of communicating resulted in the use of much broken English. The allusion made in this story to the famous events that had taken place during the time of the Great Depression. African Americans were equal to white people in the 1930s according to the United States Constitution.  The Civil War Amendments gave them the right to vote and the right to the equal protection of the laws. Neither of these amendments was upheld forcibly until the early 1950’s. So although African Americans were free they were still being held by slave owners and forced to work on farmers whether by choice or because of the large debt they owed to their owners/ landlords.

Through the thoughts and feelings of African- American couple Jeff and Jennie Patton in “A Summer Tragedy” by Arna Bontempa, the reader gains an all knowing sense of perspective narration also referred to as third person omniscient. The narrator of this story knows all and sees all within the characters and their building situation. Throughout this story, the reader begins to gain the sense of heart ache, and depression these characters have been going through as old age had taken over their body’s strength and mind, leaving them unable to do a lot of things. The couple worked for a white man they called “old man Stevenson.” Their debt had been building up, and with the loss of five children within a two year time span they felt they had no way out.

This story seems to take place down south near in the general area of the Mississippi River.  Due to the fact that the Patton’s had been share crop farmers it can be assumed that this story would have occurred during the Great Depression when the Jim Crow laws were coming into a greater effect and the U.S. constitution was pressing heavily to make blacks and white equal. At this time blacks were earning almost nothing to farm and went into a great debt. Another clue to the time the events in this story would have taken place is given when the Patton’s drive through the countryside in an old Model T Ford. This car was only made and sold during the early turn of the 1900s.

The main characters of this story are share crop farmers Jeff and Jennie Patton. Jeff Patton has farmed the same acres for forty years at the time this story takes place. Life had been very hard and physically damaging on his body and farming along with the laws of the land has kept him stuck in poverty. A stroke had further disabled him than anything including his age. Jeff has an underlying fear that another stroke could this time be fatal leaving him to be a burden on his wife, Jennie, who has been blind for years and is now very fragile herself in age.

Both Jeff and Jennie are still completely sane, but their lives have been set up to deal with far too many losses in a short period of time. These losses included the deaths of five children in a short time span of two years; together they share a grief and depression only understood by those who have once lost children of their own. Farming and old age have guided them toward a mutual pact between the two, one which is not often sought after by people of such an old age to begin with.

On the particular day which the story takes place the Patton’s begin to set their (unknown at this time) plans into motion. The pair decides to dress themselves in their Sunday “best,” then drive down a long dirt road, past their neighbors and people they just didn’t seem to get along with, toward a cliff and then into the Mississippi River below to a sad foreseeable and unfortunate death. Jeff wore a “stiff- bosomed shirt along with a swallow tailed coat,” which although it had been freshly pressed had also been severely destroyed with holes by moths in the years since he had last worn it. Unable to tie it, hands fragile and shaking, his bow tie remained to lie around his neck as he proceeded to ask his wife for help. Jennie, whose body was small and frail, wore old stockings and shoes along with a freshly pressed black silk Sunday dress. “Being blind had been no handicap for her, as she still worked well maneuvering throughout the house as though she could still see.”

The structure of this story begins in the exposition as the Patton’s are getting dressed for a day like any other, and what would be there final drive out of town. Through the rising action, we see the couple begin their two mile journey in their Model T. As the Patton’s set out, Jeff becomes concerned with the simplest of things just the thought of leaving in the car was making him extremely anxious. As Jennie finished changing, Jeff went to pull the car around; here he becomes concerned with the simplest of things. Jeff entered the house for a final time and in a soft yell he called to Jennie, “you reckon I’d oughta lock the do’?” Weighing the thought of the question, Jennie finally answers, “Ne’mind the do,’ I see no cause to lock up things.” As Jeff helped his wife into the car, he began trembling violently as he thought of the act he was about to commit.

“You must be scairt Jeff,” Jennie said out of much concern for her husband, comforting her he replies, “No, baby I ain’t scairt.” This dialouge sets up the conflict of this short story. Both Jeff and Jennie understood their situation and for that choose their love for each other over their own lives. On the way to the river, Jennie senses her husband’s trembling; he was frightened about the trip. All this concern was given for her husband while her own fear was creeping up on her. She didn’t believe that he was completely all right with what action was about to take place and tries to assure him he shouldn’t be afraid and their decision was the right one. They decided the best way to do this was to drive their car into the river. As they drove, they talked about their own strength, job on the farm and friends they had. They talked about how young they were way back when and how old they are now. Then finally on the last mile or so of their trip to the river they talked about the pain he, and Jennie suffered after losing all five of their grown children. Jeff admitted that he would have liked a few more minutes in which to “turn things around in his head.” He thought it childish to be afraid and had to keep going, unaware his wife felt the exact same way.

Each individual conflict I believe was both, internal and external, yet separate for each character. Jeff’s conflict had been both internal and external, as he was feeling completely emotional on the inside, and it was being displayed through the violent trembles going through his body. Jennie, on the other hand, was experiencing a complete internal conflict as she saw how upset her husband was through the ride she tried to comfort him while internally she too was second guessing what would soon be an unchangeable decision.

The climax of the story is reached when the car pulls up along the river, and Jennie hears the roaring water in the bed of the river. Suddenly, Jeff’s silence had broken, “Jennie, I can’t do it, I can’t.” She was no longer listening but deep in her own thought as her face became emotionless as she was absorbed in her own thoughts and feelings. Jeff began to do the same; he began thinking of his life and all he had loved, and all he had lost. His thoughts showed no anguish. Suddenly, he became brave and his hands became steady on the steering wheel. He slowed the Model T down, and pulled off to the side of the road, “the river clashed fifty or sixty feet below the surface of the road.” Between the road and Mississippi was a dry clay slope where he parked the car pointed directly at the stream. Mind rushing full of emotion, he then placed his foot firmly on the accelerator, at this moment neither of them were scared any longer, as the car moved quickly down toward the water. Inside the couple sat motionless. In an instant, the car hit the river water and sank slowly out of sight.

The theme of this story seems to be that suicide can often seem like an escape or a weak way to deal with problems. But does that always stand true? When individuals such as the Patton’s have lived such long, hard lives, they begin to only wish to maintain a sense of pride for everything they have accomplished even though they lost so much. Dying with pride, dignity and respect on your own terms can be understandable in situations of a life filled with resentment. “A Summer Tragedy” presents the true meaning of hopelessness; feeling if you are in a bad enough situation that you have to take drastic measures to solve or get out of it, without really looking at the whole picture.

Throughout this short story the author used several literary devices but two that stood out to me were the use of dialect and allusion throughout this writing. Through dialect such as the conversations between Jeff and Jennie as they discuss their feelings on the way to the river, “You must be scairt Jeff” Jennie said out of much concern for her husband, comforting her he replies “No, baby I ain’t scairt.” Portraying this dialect gives the reader a sense of what life for practically all African Americans was like in the 1930’s they were not that well educated, if they were even educated at all so their way of communicating resulted in the use of much broken English. The allusion made in this story to the famous events that had taken place during the time of the Great Depression. African Americans were equal to white people in the 1930s according to the United States Constitution.  The Civil War Amendments gave them the right to vote and the right to the equal protection of the laws. Neither of these amendments was upheld forcibly until the early 1950’s. So although African Americans were free they were still being held by slave owners and forced to work on farmers whether by choice or because of the large debt they owed to their owners/ landlords.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on the UKDiss.com website then please: