Tobias Wolff-Our Story Begins Passage Analysis

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As Mary and Louise from In the Garden of the North American Martyrs ‘chain-[smoke] cigarettes’ and ‘[watch] the coals burn down’ from a fire instead of sleeping after revealing a flaw of each others we understand their respective vulnerability and in turn Wolff’s interest in human insecurities. These personal reactions provide the reader with an image of each character’s own anxiety and insecurities. Wolff peals back each character’s façade and shows their own fear, leaving nothing but the image of two women lying quietly in the dark, showing the above all else these characters have in common, fear of how they are perceived and their weaknesses are all that are left. Many of Wolff’s characters have this same issue. They are shown to be worried as to whether or not they were ‘thought [to be] pretentious’, if they are ‘womanly’ and ‘sympathetic’. Many characters are held back by their self-doubt and struggle to develop without confronting or revealing their issues. Wolff indicates that although each character appears to be different and individualistic, they all share the ‘gaunt and pale’ face of vulnerability. In the first passage Wolff suggests that all characters have some sort of personal anxiety through recurring images of situations in which characters actions are driven by how people ‘thought [they] were’. Mary’s attitude, driven by fear of judgement and persecution, ultimately define her as a character, giving nobody ‘cause to dislike her’. The simple observation that Mary would not wear certain clothes based on how she believed people would perceive her makes clear Wolff’s view that portions of Mary’s life has become directed by social pressure and judgement, causing the audience sympathise with her due to her inability to be independent. This sympathy comes from the fact that due to this life constructed by fear Mary believes that she is ‘dying faster than

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