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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 342

Take It With a Pillar of Salt

  1. In John Stock’s “Lincoln Cathedral”:

    1. At what point does the reader realize that the sexton is not a real person but a carved effigy from the 14th century?
    2. The purpose of the ambiguity is obvious; how does the poet achieve it?
  2. In Yelena Dubrovin’s “The Dying Glory,” is a convincing case made that Dr. Spider is not a “man of value”? Does the implied moral justify the epigraph? If not, what might might be added to strengthen the case against Dr. Spider?

  3. In Ron Van Sweringen’s “To the Penny,” is “Crazy Mildred” depicted as deserving of sympathy or is she “crazy like a fox”? How might she be depicted as a sympathetic figure rather than as a moocher and a thief?

  4. In Tom Sheehan’s “The Salting”:

    1. How does the “pillar of salt” punishment both affirm and contradict the story of Lot’s wife?
    2. Considering Larry Pumfrey’s innocence and the almost mythical status conferred by Midlin Ambeau’s apparently uncontrollable paranormal talent, does Larry’s fate seem tragic or inadvertently comical?
  5. In Ronald E. Heinrich’s “Garbage Child”:

    1. The story deliberately challenges conventional concepts of point of view in two ways: it takes the perspective of an adult in an infant’s body, and its realism borrows from the genre of the classic fable by depicting insects as acting as animals but talking and reasoning like human beings. Does the eclectic approach defy suspension of disbelief? If so, how else could the story be told?

    2. The story opens with a mother committing what amounts to infanticide by abandonment. Without a much larger story, readers have no reason to think she is unaware of other options than placing her child in a dumpster. In that light, is the mother’s regret at all believable or is it gratuitous sentimentality?

    3. The couple who find the child have a good conscience. What does it imply about the moral obligation of both the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” political factions?

  6. In John Anker’s “The Seventh One”:

    1. When a point of view character is called “you,” the story seems to address the reader directly. The second-person point of view is rarely used; one of the best-known examples is Michel Butor’s novel La Modification. Can you cite any other examples?
    2. Do readers ignore the rhetorical device and mentally transpose “you” to “he,” “she,” or “I”?
    3. Is anything gained or lost by avoiding the conventional first- or third-person point of view? What limitations are inherent in choosing the second-person viewpoint?
    4. What problems would arise in translating the story into a language other than English?

Responses welcome!

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