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Monday Craft Tips: Using point of view to make emotion more vivid (2)

The story of Tobias Wolff’s “The Chain” so far: Tobias Wolff plunges us into near tragedy at the beginning of his story, which begins at the moment when the dog attacks Brian Gold’s daughter Anna. Anna is saved, but Brian is still upset, and thus a chain of events is set in motion that leads to the murder of Marcel Foley by an enraged Victor Barnes, who believes his car has been damaged by the drug-pusher to whom he owes money. Victor forces his way into the home where Marcel Foley is staying, and kills him with the crowbar.

teenagersNear the end of this story, we meet Tiffany and Garvey, high-school sweethearts, who take advantage of the news surrounding Marcel’s death by skipping school for the afternoon. They decide to go to Gold’s Video on their way to Garvey’s place. We learn via Garvey’s point of view, that Brian was “slow writing up the the receipt”, and that “he looked sick.” (34) After Garvey’s eulogy of Marcel, Brian “put his hands on the counter and lowered his head.” Garvey doesn’t know what we know, and so we hear him puzzle it out in the next sentence: “Then Garvey saw that he was grieving and it came to him how unfair a thing it was that Marcel Foley had been struck down…” (35) and his empathy makes him think the same thoughts as Brian. Articulating someone else’s thoughts via another character’s point of view makes the emotion more powerful. Brian’s guilt and grief are much more powerfully conveyed because they are filtered through the point-of-view of a self-obsessed teenager out on a date with his girlfriend.

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