Conflicts are not only essential for the story but essence of the story. Readers prefer writing styles in which they can involve themselves through the entire story and feel the ‘anxiety' of the protagonist or other characters to achieve the goals set by them. George Saunders reflects this writing style in some of his short stories, especially The Wavemaker Falters and The 400-pound CEO. His brilliant satirical writing in these stories portrays the narrators' hidden emotions and feelings which lead to ill fate. He is ingenious in the way he describes the thought processes of his characters with authenticity. This detailed and blunt description of the tumultuous strings of thought of the characters helps us understand the reason behind all their lives' pitfalls. We understand that self expression goes a long way in keeping one's sanity in the troubled and dark world created by Saunders.
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The protagonists of Saunders' stories retain their genuine emotions inside of themselves which eventually lead to their downfall. In The Wavemaker Falters, the narrator is forced to suppress his anger he feels towards Leon as he is hard pressed under the guilt of killing a young boy by gross technical carelessness. He is overpowered by passivity and resignation, two elements by which he leads his day to day life. This leads to his downfall as he loses his happiness, his wife and all that had once been significant to him. In this short story, Leon constantly reminds him of his guilt by asking him not to feel guilty which instead of being of any help simply served to add fuel to the fire (Saunders 38). Furthermore, his life becomes nightmarish as he gets Clive in his dreams, in a state of utter disappointment. “One night he shows up swearing in Latin while another time with a wild story about an ancient African culture that used radio waves to relay tribal myths”(Saunders 39). Narrator does not resolve this issue by consulting a specialist, but continues to get depressed by the fact that he ended an innocent life.
On the other hand, Jeffery in The 400 pound CEO suppresses his anger and indignation caused by day to day treatment bestowed by his colleagues. He is good natured and optimistic about life and thinks he deserves a second chance at happiness. He is portrayed as an optimist with a high degree of hope throughout the story. He believes that if he is good natured and sociable; it might change people's behaviors and perception of him. In the story, he kills Tim in the process of trying to save an innocent girl's life. He commits the murder ‘sick with rage' knowing that Tim was a cruel monster. He always exposed Tim as a guilty person. Although Jeffery commits the crime, his intention is always to protect others, which he has difficulty expressing due to fear of being mocked (Saunders 59). This lack of self expression was the cause of the bottled up anger.
Saunders' writing style expresses optimism and fatalism in both the short stories to make his satire thoughtful. In the Wavemaker Falters, Saunders mentions narrator's pessimistic character in his dealings with Simone. The narrator shows extreme cupidity with Simone's happiness. He goes to Leon's office and waits for Simon to come out ‘flushed and happy'. “He wants to jumps out and confront her but he doesn't” (Saunders 42). Even when
he gathers courage to confront his wife regarding her affair with Leon; he is put down by Simone who openly accepted her affections for Leon. He accepts the fact that Simon's relationship with Leon will continue no matter what he does (Saunders 43). Hence he becomes all the more dejected and lacks enthusiasm to recapture what is truly his.
On the other hand, Jeffery in The 400 pound CEO is optimistic and hopeful till the end. But on the other hand, he makes a strong atheistic statement because of the strong feelings of being cheated by God himself “I have a sense that God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak, his dumb, his fat, and his lazy. I believe he takes more pleasure in his perfect creatures, and cheers them on like a brainless dad as they run roughshod over the rest of us”(Saunders 63). He is clearly dissatisfied with his physical appearance. He hopes that there is a God who controls the SubGod. He wishes his reincarnation with more “beautiful baby, destined for a different life in which I am masterful, sleek as a deer, a winner” (Saunders 64). He does not lose hope.
In addition to that, he shows his willingness to secure another chance at life by asking Freeda out. She deceives him into believing that she wanted to date him, when the truth was that she wanted the money Tim offered for it. Moreover, Jeffery, a 400 pound CEO, accepts responsibility for Tim's murder. He wished everything would turn out well if he speaks the truth in front of the judge. In fact, “the judge appreciated his honesty for saving a girl's life” (Saunders 63).
As a conclusion, Saunders authentic satire in these stories hooks up the audience to read his literature. The narrator from The Wavemaker Falter evinces the qualities of pessimism and demonstrates that he believes that he is powerless to change his destiny.
On the other hand; Jeffery from The 400 pound CEO possesses an optimistic view in of life and never loses hope till the end. Also, the exaggeration was a great help as it facilitated the precise understanding of the narrators and other characters in the stories. It brings home the fact that lack of self expression clutter the mind, making it hard for the individual to live peacefully.
Saunders, George. CivilWarLand in bad decline. New York: The Berkley Group, 1996.
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