Student Writing:  Opening & Closing Paragraphs

Thank you everyone for sending in your favorite opening and closing paragraphs!  When you leave the formulaic essay behind and enter a more performative space, an "exploration" instead of an essay, you also leave behind the ability to classify and list simple rules for how to create the perfect paragraph.  You'll see a wide array of writing below, and hopefully you'll see several examples that you will want to employ or try in your own writing.

Your favorite opening paragraphs were numbers 3 and 12, and your favorite conclusions were numbers 7 and 17. Congratulations to winners, Sarah M., Michael, Amy, and Sean.

Click to jump to opening paragraphs or skip ahead to closing paragraphs.


Opening Paragraphs
1.  Raymond Carver is known for his distinct style of writing. This individual style has also been the subject of controversy because Carver's editor claims that it was he who made Carver's stories have the distinct style which is associated with Carver. "The Bath" and "Cathedral" are two stories involving very different subject matter; however they are similar in the way that Carver uses characters, setting, language, irony, and an open ending to draw the reader into the story.

2.  Charlotte Perkins Gilman was beset by postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, and began treatment in 1886 with Dr. Weir Mitchell (Charlotte).  His recommendations, which she later satirized in her short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” were to “live as domestic a life as possible and never touch a pen, brush, or pencil as long as you live” (Gilman 1162).  “The Yellow Wallpaper” is based on her struggle with her postpartum depression and the ‘rest cure’ she was prescribed.  The environment in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the main factor that drives the main character to psychosis.  Setting “provides a credible situation for the character to be in and gives insight into the behavior and attitude of the character” (A Little).  In this story, the historical setting negatively impacts the narrator. 

3.  “The wind shield wipers make a great clatter, like two idiots clapping in church" (O'Connor).  Upon the mention of a grey monkey, the cabbage-like appearance of a woman’s head, and a simile containing idiots clapping in church, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and Wise Blood have Flannery O’Connor written all over them—literally. Revolting characters, religious symbols, and a dark plot represent just a few key ingredients essential for a piece of literary work exploring human faults and the path to redemption. It does not take a Harvard scholar to understand the deep emotions and trials of this author’s characters, only one who has ever questioned his purpose in life or religious beliefs. Two of Flannery O’Connor’s works, her first novel Wise Blood and the short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, present very different stories, but upon closer inspection share several major elements. Both works present main characters on a similar journey fleeing from their faith. Intertwined among the plots of these stories, are the recurring themes of appearance versus reality and the inevitability of redemption. Flannery O’Connor ties together these common elements and effectively binds the two stories at their core through religious symbolism. Religious symbols embody a signature part of Flannery O’Connor’s southern gothic writing style (Kennedy et. al). The three major symbols in Wise Blood and “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” include: a black hat, car, and blood.

4.  A Well is the object that Alice Munro used as a center point in her short story “Nettles”. The Well is the object that resonates during the course of the story with a far greater meaning than some may think was intended. Within this story the well attracts the readers attention. This well is more than just a source to attain water from. In the story the main character says “A well is a hole in a ground” (Munro 185). This is true, but it is so much more. The well, which contains water, holds the very substance that is so valuable to life. At a first glance a well can appear to be a dark bottomless hole, but our narrator describes it uniquely, “I thought of black rocks where the water ran like sparkling diamonds” (Munro 157). It is, in the case of the story, a resource for a family and a working man; a median for two children to meet and explore the world around them; and a phallic symbol which represents the foundation a woman needs in her life and the passion she chases throughout it.

5.  In literature, each character has something to add to the story. No matter how big or small the role, each essentially affects the story’s outcome. While some minor characters can seem to have no affect, a careful analysis can reveal their significance. In examining minor characters, many readers come across foils. Many authors use foils, which are “minor characters who either complement or contrast sharply with the protagonist to reveal his or her nature more clearly,” in order to supply readers with important information that contributes to the development of the story (Dramatic 1). Beulah, a foil in Raymond Carver’s short story “Cathedral,” perfectly fits the definition. While Beulah is only mentioned in a few paragraphs of the story and she never meets the narrator, her role is significant because she able to reveal dislikable qualities in the narrator’s character and the flaws in his marriage while also helping to enhance the dramatic epiphany at the end of the story.

6.  These people make society thrive and many are employed to cater to their well being.  They are children.  Kids make up one of the largest percentages of the world’s population, and according to “Youth Quake: The Global Need for Informed Choice”, written By Gloria Felt, sixty percent of pregnancies are unplanned by adolescents in the United States; but the fact still remains that the children are here.  In the western culture, offspring are typically looked at as gifts from the almighty Lord.  In recent information posted by Planned Parenthood entitled, “How to Be a Good Parent,” experts say that children have several basic needs: needs of the body, needs to feel safe and secure, and needs for affection.  In the story, “Nettles”, written by Alice Munro, the unnamed narrator seems to overlook the joy and the blessing of raising her children.

7.  Irony is a very funny concept. The ability to create an ironic situation is a true and rare gift. Not many authors in this world can genuinely say that they have compelled their readers to cheer, cry, or even just smile due to their outstanding use of verbal or situational irony. Robert Olen Butler's Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot is an exceptional story, bursting with loads of pathos and tear-filled irony. This heart-wrenching story has the ability to spark a reader's curiosity and -- if looked at closely enough -- lead him to discover specific and interesting details that provide a sense of sorrow and sympathy as well as ironic humor. When exploring and analyzing a seemingly insignificant passage concerning the happiness and freedom provided by a wrought-iron birdcage, one can truly begin to understand the meaning of the word "trapped," all while watching the narrator's journey become physically and emotionally more difficult.    

8.  Robert Olen Butler’s individualistic writing technique resonates in all of his fiction works. Through the development of his characters’ personas, Butler is able to accurately capture relationships in a real-life context. Butler’s personality “[is] the raw material of poetic production, for the creative writer uses his day-dreams, with certain remodellings, disguises and omissions, to construct the situations which he introduces into his short stories, his novels or his plays. The hero of the day-dreams is always the subject himself, either directly or by an obvious identification with someone else” (Willbern par.5). Butler’s short story collection, Tabloid Dreams, expressively personifies this quality. Two stories in particular, “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot,” and “Woman Uses Glass Eye to Spy on Philandering Husband” provide sufficient examples of Butler’s idiosyncratic approach to writing. In a comparison of the stories through the perspective of Freudian psychoanalytical critics, many similar qualities can be found. The id and the ego are used to intensify and even drive the characters’ thoughts and actions throughout the stories.

9.  Accurately depicting a war zone through literature can have varying effects depending on the writer’s technique.  Tim O’Brien’s personal experience in Vietnam allows him to draw a similar picture in “The Things They Carried.”  O’Brien takes you back in time, reliving the combat at ground zero.  The accurate depiction in “The Things They Carried” places the reader at the scene in the heat of the action, revealing the characters’ emotions and thought process. 

10.  During the Vietnam War “one out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty. 58,189 were killed and 304,000 wounded” and “…amputations or crippling wounds were 300 percent higher than in WWII” (Roush). The scale in which the soldiers suffered is unfathomable and leaves the rest of society susceptible to the continued romanticizing of war as a means for young people to escape their hometowns and see the world.  Vietnam, to the tourist’s or tragically naïve soldier’s eye, may well seem to be a tropical paradise abundant with sunshine, warm breezes and exotic beauty. Simply imagining the lush, jungle-covered country evokes daydreams about a picturesque landscape miles away from home. After all, the country looks “to be green and inviting” on maps, so why should the rest of the world think any different? Tim O’Brien capitalizes on this dramatic irony in The Things They Carried by revealing the landscape through the eyes and experiences of the soldiers during the Vietnam War.

11.  The fiction genre engulfs many different types of stories. Most are unique and inventive stores that propose characters, settings, and plots that are purely made up. Fiction compiles literature that can extend from this planet to planets in other galaxies. Flannery O'Connor wrote many fiction short stories throughout her lifetime. Some of her most popular stories and books tend to "[criticize] the materialism and spiritual apathy of contemporary society, faulting modern rationalism for its negation of the need for religious faith and redemption" (Flannery). Two of her most famous short stories, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge", both share some characteristics that are unique to Flannery O'Connor. She uses descriptive and distinct characters with strange relationships in each story. In each story, the plot "often [depicts] a rural domestic situation suddenly invaded by a criminal or perverse outsider" (Flannery). She uses these types of situations to explain more about each character and their relationship with others, usually their sons. Using these dynamic characters and strange relationships, O'Connor shows one character in each story being punished by their own actions and the relationships that they have with others.

12.  Constructionism is “[t]he perspective that reality cannot be separated from the way a culture makes sense of it – that meaning is ‘constructed’ through social, political, legal, scientific, or other practices.  From this perspective, differences among people are created through social processes” (Rosenblum and Travis 1).  Flannary O’Connor recognized constructionism in her society, and she presents a wonderful satire of that constructionist society with her short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and she makes the reader question his original subconscious support of constructionist norms in his interpretation of reality.  In the story, O’Connor gives the reader a typical family of a mother, father, daughter, son, baby and grandmother.  She also takes this socially constructed typical family on a socially constructed typical family road trip vacation.  When the reader first comes in contact with this family, he immediately falls victim to the constructionist trap set by O’Connor, because he first constructs this family as normal based on their appearance, yet he is proven wrong; the rest of the story shortly after the immediate introductions of the family members shreds the social construction of the idyllic family.  O’Connor deconstructs these social norms by revealing the true nature of the characters.  She makes the reader realize that his preconception of the family at the start is wrong, and she does this by showing the children to actually be miserable brats, by showing the parents to actually be emotionally detached guardians, by showing the grandmother to actually be a cowardly, manipulative imitation of her stereotypical self, and by showing a murderer as perhaps the most attractive character in the story.  Utilizing these methods, Flannary O’Connor blurs the distinction between “good” and “bad” and proves to the reader in an entertaining way that judgments of members of society based on their socially constructed image is wrong. 

13.  The writing of Flannery O’Connor in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” can come across to the surface reader as heartless and dark, almost ruthlessly evil and psychotic. The end of the story leaves the casual reader with a hollow sense of confusion and emotional devastation. But in reality, O’Connor’s writing is filled with meaning and symbolism hidden in plain sight beneath a crazy storyline. Her writing is filled with purpose for the insightful reader to undercover. One of O’Connor’s hidden symbols lies in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” where she uses a character coined “The Misfit” to represent the devil. By using biblical symbols, reactions in people, deceptive motives, and references to death, O’Connor portrays The Misfit as a representation of Satan while exploring the Christian concept of grace.

14.  With her beautiful smiling face, Flannery O’Connor appears as if she could brighten any room by simply walking into it. After reading her short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” one may begin to wonder how such a seemingly pleasant woman could write such a dark story. While the story may be considered almost demented, the reader can delve into the deeper meaning. What is O’Connor trying to tell her audience? Is there a message and what is it? The message that she is giving to her readers is much deeper than what appears to happen in the story. Clearly, O’Connor’s use of setting in her story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” helps the reader to understand the message that appearances are not always as they seem.

15.  “God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose.  Take which you please - you can never have both” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).  The setting of a story not only informs the reader of a story’s background and basis, but it also provides the reader with critical insight of its characters.  In the case of the parrot, in Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot by Robert Olen Butler, he is trapped in several aspects of his setting; which eventually leads to greater insight of his life as a human.  He is a man inside of a parrot’s body, trapped within a metal cage, stationed in a house filled with bittersweet tortures; all of these contribute to the reasons why the parrot lives in a world where he can see freedom and relief, however, he is never quite able to grasp it.  Looking back on the opening lines, all of the entrapping situations and experiences throughout the story cause the parrot to reflect on the truth and discovering the truth about his wife cheating with other men.  He also reflects on his previous life as a human; which, in turn, ultimately leads him to reveal his true character.  The parrot feels that he is deserving of the tortures that he is enduring now as a parrot because of his actions (or lack there of) while he was a human.  

16.  The use of a flashback is a tool unique to literature. Flashbacks are useful tools writers use to try and better show their characters and let the audience better get to know the character. Alice Munro, the author of Nettles, uses flashbacks throughout her story. Continuously throughout Nettles, Munro goes back and forth in time. Flashbacks are very common to Munro’s writing and help her develop her characters as in Nettles with the development of the narrator.

17.  In a perfect world there would be no worries, fears, anxieties, or practically any other emotion containing a negative connotation.  In spite of the wishes of some, the world as well as the people living in it is, anything but perfect.  Although there are many high-quality people in this world, no one individual has the power to be perfect, and instinctively each and every person contains flaws.  Despite what some may think, fortunately there is some type of solution for every problem.  Although these solutions might not be easy to find and might not remedy the trouble entirely, there is always a way to improve the situation in some fashion.  Just as there diligent workers, average students, and lazy bosses, such is true in the realm of self-improvement.  Some people are always working hard and striving to rid themselves of any problematic character traits or habits. Others don’t mind the problems and continue on in their ordinary way of living, while there are still others who are completely unaware of their situation.  Most of the time these faults are small and pose no literal threat, yet in some circumstances they are vital to the longevity on one’s relationship.  In one of Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler’s short stories, he addresses the importance of these problems. In “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot,” Robert Olen Butler uses a unique setting and a rare point of view to convey the importance of taking control of these problems before it is too late.
18.  Wars are fought for causes which ideally bring out the bravery and moral awareness in a man. In "The Things They Carried," by Tim O’Brien, he argues differently. He traces the footsteps and thoughts of seventeen young soldiers fighting to maintain their humanity during the Vietnam War. In his version of Vietnam, glory and honor are replaced by fear and uncertainty. Often it appears that the soldiers are not fighting an enemy as much as fighting themselves. They try to fend off their own “weak” tendencies; to feel guilt and sadness at a man’s death, to dream of home, and the selfish fear of their own death. Throughout the story it becomes evident that many characters have to change their morals and ideals in order to survive. O’Brien uses several characters to portray the unavoidable dehumanizing affects of war.

19.  In drama, it is often said, “there are no small parts, only small actors.” The same applies to literature. In Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” there are many unique characters that promote humor, excitement, and fear in the reader. Although authors use many minor characters in literature for entertainment value, minor characters are essential to the plot of the story. Such is the case with O’Connor’s character, Red Sam’s wife. Her husband owns the diner where the family stops during their vacation. The author only mentions her during one section of the story, and she has very little dialogue. However, she plays an important role in the plot. Although Red Sam’s wife is overlooked, she proves to be a significant minor character because she incites emotion within the other characters and foreshadows the outcome of the story.

20.  “I wasn’t enthusiastic about his visit.  He was no one I knew.  And his being blind bothered me.  My idea of blindness came from the movies.  In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed.  Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs.  A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to” (Carver 448).  In Raymond Carver’s short story “Cathedral,” the narrator is extraordinarily full of himself, until the end of the story.   When Robert, the blind man, comes to visit the narrator’s wife at their house, it is almost impossible to overlook the resentment the narrator feels toward Robert.  The narrator seems judgmental and harsh towards most things, because his ego makes him feel like he is entitled to more than his wife and Robert are entitled to.  The narrator builds up a wall to prevent anyone, including his wife, from getting into him to show his true feelings.  In Raymond Carver’s short story, the narrator’s house is seems insignificant, but in reality it represents a great deal about the narrator’s ego.


Closing Paragraphs

1.  As previously mentioned, Carver's style is very distinct.  His personal style is evident in both "Cathedral" and "The Bath" with the use of short, choppy, and staccato phrases. Both stories are short in length as well. Another thing that the two stories have in common is their use of dialogue; both of the stories have a lot of dialogue between the characters. Another thing that is evident in the stories is how descriptive Carter is, his descriptiveness enables the reader to picture the events of the story in his or her head. It is easy to see that at first glance these two stories are totally different, but it is only with further analysis that one can see the similarities between the two.

2.  Because of the effect of the ‘rest cure’ prescribed to the narrator, she becomes so insane that she contemplates suicide: “to jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong to even try” (Gilman 1161).  She blames herself for her anger and disorder, because she is pressured to think it is her fault by her husband and doctor.  If the character were able to escape the historical barrier between her and the superior men, she perhaps would have been able to be cured.  Charlotte Gilman divorced her husband John, curing her postpartum depression.  However, she later ended her own life after her second husband died (Charlotte).

3.  “The wind shield wipers make a great clatter, like two idiots clapping in church” (O’Connor).  Flannery O’Connor uses three key religious symbols in both writings to demonstrate her Catholic belief in God and to add potency to the main character’s struggle against inevitable redemption. The religious symbols that appear in Flannery O’Connor’s works are better understood through the author’s upbringing. Living most of her life in Atlanta, Georgia, he parents brought her up to practice the Catholic faith (Kennedy, et al.). The constant recurring religious imagery and symbols, and the character’s similar paths of religious discovery, have greater meaning once the reader acknowledges O’Connor’s personal views of redemption and moral behavior emanating from them. Both Hazel Motes and The Misfit wear a black brimmed hat that resembles a preacher’s and strive to escape from their own religious beliefs by driving away in cars. Also both characters try to deny their own wise blood by not accepting their innate faith. Throughout O’Connor’s created worlds, characters struggle to define their religious beliefs and face the demons in their memories of crimes they have committed in the past. Sometimes as in the case of Hazel Motes redemption is achieved and the character is once again united with his faith. Other times such as in the case of The Misfit, O’Connor leaves the story’s ending uncertain, allowing the reader to examine his own predictions for the fate of a lost soul. Maybe The Misfit will stubbornly run from his belief forever; maybe he will experience a religious epiphany and end up clapping like an idiot in church.

4.  It is interesting to see how a simple structure in a story can resonate with so much meaning and be compared with so many occurrences in life. Who knew a well could stand for so many things? The well created a job for Mike’s father which in turn introduced the narrator to Mike. It shaped her unintentionally by the people it brought in and out of her life. It stood for a gateway between two children. It also stood as a phallic symbol; the penis that the main character chases through out the story; the penis of Mike and other men she had been with. It was Mike she yearned for. She believed he would make her life better. At the time when she was young he did make her life better, but now that she had grown up there was little he could do to make a difference. Yet she chases several male counterparts trying to tap into a resource important to life. The well brought Mike into our protagonist’s life. It shaped her unintentionally by the people it brought in and out of her life. The well was a resource, a resource that never ended, as if it was a bottomless pit.

5.  The narrator’s huge turn-around at the end of the story is one that is shocking for the reader. While it may seem that only Robert influenced the narrator by showing him some sort of light in the darkness, a careful analysis can reveal Beulah’s significant influence. Her character, while only minor, had a great impact on the development of the narrator’s character and the dramatic ending. Raymond Carver successfully used a foil to help the progression his story. Without Beulah’s presences in “Cathedral,” important character growth would be absent, taking away from the story’s powerful ending.

6.  “How to Be a Good Parent” implies that, “If you decide to become a parent, you will probably have to learn to cope with pain, conflict, and sorrow.  They are often part of the parenting experience.  But you will also probably experience many joys and rewards. They are all possible...”  The narrator, in “Nettles” does not take the smallest action in trying to become influential in her children’s lives.  She does not try to provide the love, attention, and security that every developmental child seeks and deserves.  Because of her negligence, her children have started to address her in a more formal manner, rather than approaching the narrator as if she was their caregiver.  The narrator should have taken full advantage of raising her children- only one chance is granted to be a major influence in a young one’s life.

7.  Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot is a story of unvalued love that is eventually lost; it is the epitome of a story by Robert Olen Butler. Butler is a mastermind when it comes to stories that "tug at the heartstrings" and give readers a sense of hope until some ironic play on life interferes. It is difficult not to sympathize with the narrator in this story. Many people have difficulties sharing their feelings and emotions, yet not many people relate this problem to a reincarnated parrot. Irony is by far the most important concept in this story. Butler toys with the emotions of his characters and his readers by providing a sense of expectation and faith, yet he ironically contradicts himself by adding elements of disappointment and hopelessness. No matter how much the reader wants the narrator to be able to communicate with his wife, he can never do so, and Butler makes this concept heart-wrenching and sad, especially by adding the contemplation of suicide. Although Butler has a very unconventional view of the short story, many authors and students look up to him and envy his unique ability to add irony to almost any situation. He is a mentor, a pioneer, and a teacher. He has been quoted with saying: "I tell my writing students that works of art do not come from the mind, they come from the place where you dream. I deeply believe that. And so I welcome you to my dreams" (In His Own Words).

8.  The extensive influence of Freud’s the id and the ego inadvertently coerce Robert Olen Butler’s characters into performing acts of jealousy, anger, and sexual desire. Bringing his character’s to the literal brink of insanity, Butler’s play on Freud’s research can be interpreted many different ways.  By studying Butler’s works using the psychoanalytical critic’s mentality and philosophy, readers can enjoy a whole new literary experience. Butler’s use of sexual symbols and themes shed light on the “dark, inaccessible part of our personality” (Felluga par. 5).

9.  “The Things They Carried” portrays an accurate and detailed description of the Vietnam War through an evolving setting.  The surroundings in “The Things They Carried” have a significant impression on the tone in each scene.  Features, such as weather, assist the reader in understanding the mood of the individual soldiers.  O’Brien develops a setting to guide the reader through the minds of these struggling men. 

10.  The scathing irony of how such a beautiful country can be a vessel through which so much havoc was wreaked is not lost upon Tim O’Brien.  Many people can write or philosophize about why Vietnam so dramatically affected the lives of all who fought there, but only a few come even remotely close to conveying the horror seen through the eyes of the soldiers.  This is a simple fact because “as any Vietnam vet will tell you, you can’t know what it was like unless you were there” (Volkmer).

11.    Flannery O'Connor wrote unique stories with characters that are hard to forget. In both "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge," she demonstrates the punishment of characters through personal relationships and actual death. She believes in the punishment of characters that deserve it and shows that in both stories. Her morbid and somewhat disturbing stories teach lessons to her readers that punishment is inevitable if it is deserved. O'Connor makes known what kind of actions deserve punishing and actively describes the punishment in her stories.

12.  In the end, O’Connor’s short story warns the reader to not rely on stereotypes, because entities are never as they seem; she reveals to the reader that what society deems as mainstream and normal does not really exist, and she builds off of this argument by warning the readers to not be overly judgmental considering that “good” and “bad” are much closer than one might have originally thought.  O’Connor takes the strict social constructions of 1950s America and completely inverts them.  O’Connor wants the reader to give true thought to his social environment, and she presents a very entertaining satire to succeed in her social commentary. 

13.  O’Connor uses the short story of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” to share the concept of God’s grace using The Misfit as a representation of the devil. The fact that The Misfit says sweet stuff and knows the gospel of Christ is no argument for him being a good person. “The Devil sows deceptive and imitation seeds that poison and corrupt the minds and hearts of mankind… he will copy as much of God’s creation as he can, but he will always either distort, pervert, substitute or leave out those key ingredients of truth” (Powers and Limits). The real truth is that Christ defeated Satan and paid our debt on the cross, which bestows people on earth with an unfathomable grace. After looking at the biblical symbols, deceptive motives, people’s reactions, and references to death throughout the story, it becomes clear that O’Connor used The Misfit as a symbol to represent the devil.

14.  “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” portrays the message that a person’s complete environment, including the places they go and the people they are around are not always as they appear. Flannery O’Connor shows that while a good man is hard to find, the people and places that appear to be good or bad on the outside may have completely different qualities than what is seen.

15.   The parrot lives as he did as a human, quiet and never taking action to communicate with his wife.  It is not until this jealous husband comes back into the world in the form of a parrot that he realizes everything he wants to do and say to his wife; however, now it is too late because despite the fact that he is able to say a limited number of words, those words do not express how he truly feels.  He is trapped inside of a parrot’s body, in a cage of torture, in a house filled with unattainable truth.  All of these entrapping situations of his setting reflect on the parrot’s true character and previous life as a human.  At the end of the story the parrot has an opportunity to discover the truth about his wife and the other men; however, instead of taking the opportunity that he has always wanted, he ends his life as a human and a parrot: 

I stand on my cage door now, and my wings stir.  I look at the corner to the hallway, and down at the end the whooping has begun again.  I can fly there and think of things to do about all this.  But I do not.  I turn instead, and look at the trees moving just beyond the other end of the room.  I look at the sky the color of the brow of a blue-font Amazon.  A shadow of birds spanks across the lawn.  And I spread my wings.  I will fly now.  Even though I know there is something between me and that place where I can be free of all these feelings, I will fly.  I will throw myself there again and again.  Pretty bird. Bad bird. Good night. (1599).

In the end, the parrot would rather die than discover the truth about his wife.  This reveals critical insight to his character as a human; he avoided confronting his wife about the other men and avoided taking action in finding the truth because really, he did not want to know it.  “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad” (Aldous Huxley).  Rather than learning the truth, which would drive him mad, the parrot frees himself of his entrapping setting and the tortures that go with it by ending his life.

16.  The use of a flashback is a very interesting aspect of literature. It is something that cannot be used in the real world and makes a story that much more interesting because it adds a special character to the story. Through a flashback the reader is able to see things not seen before and develop the character. Munro uses the flashback wisely and often throughout many of her short stories.

17.   Just as most people do in life, the main character in this story did not live up to his full potential.  He let his problems bog him down and lead him to a tragic death.  It is clear that the point of this short story is to be a good steward of one’s time and to take advantage of all the chances you are given.  Unfortunately that is easier said than done and when being incorporated into a story, it is just as hard for an author to relate their message the most affective way.  Butler was imaginative enough to provide his readers with a great story, and a great lesson.  The key element that made this story great was Butler’s selection of setting.  He intentionally did not want to expose the wife’s point of view and distract the reader.  It was not important to his message whether she was innocent or not.  He creatively placed the character in the body of a parrot and was able to get his meaning across by relating everything from the bird’s perspective.  Learning from faults rather than successes is a proven technique and Butler incorporated this idea in an effective approach.  Every reader should learn from this man’s mistakes and remember to not let trivial problems lead them to ruin.  In his short story, “Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot,” Robert Olen Butler uses a unique a setting and choice of perspective to express the importance of taking control of problems before it is too late.

18.  In order to survive the war, each soldier has to change his perception of emotions in order to survive. Some of this change is intentional, and some of it is not. The innocence they lost and the frustration the soldiers feel is out of their control. However, each man recognizes the need to think of death and other people from a more objective vantage point. In hearing about Vietnam, something commonly pointed out is that many veterans refuse to discuss what happened. This could be the result of how they changed while they were there. It would be difficult to describe acting in ways not “acceptable” in normal society. Most people could not understand the environment that war creates and how it can change a person’s morals out of necessity. O’Brien effectively displays this quality of war throughout "The Things They Carried."

19.  In “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” O’Connor demonstrates the importance of minor characters. She uses Red Sam’s wife to show that minor characters should never be ignored. The concept of minor characters is of great interest to feminist critics. Feminist “critics look at the treatment of women and even more importantly, ideas of masculinity and femininity, in order to understand the text and its time period” (Schilb 1587). Critics might blame Red Sam’s overbearing attitude and old-fashioned views as the reason his wife is overlooked. However, Woloch writes, “If ‘minor characters’ were literally minor in the normative sense of this word – ‘comparatively small or unimportant; not to be reckoned among the greater or principal individuals of the kind’ – the term itself would never have been formulated or deployed so often in literary criticism and evaluation” (37). Minor characters always serve a purpose in literature. In O’Connor’s short story, she uses Red Sam’s wife to provoke emotion and foreshadow the death of the other characters. Red Sam’s wife is proof that minor characters have major functions.

20.  All throughout “Cathedral,” Carver portrays the narrator as a big and bad man who cannot be defeated or taken down by anything.  When his wife invites Robert over to her and her husband’s house to visit, the narrator puts up a wall.    He does this because his ego will not let him be kind to a man that his wife is friends with.  He is unwilling to accept the fact that his wife has another male friend, and it hurts the narrator’s pride because he feels he should be the only one in her life.  In Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral,” the whole story takes place in the narrator’s house, which may seem insignificant, but it actually is a representation of the narrator’s ego and all of the walls he has built up against people who try to have a relationship with him.