Kurt Vonnegut’s presentation of his Good/Ill, Beginning/End chart was reminiscent of the intro — increasing tension — climax — decreasing tension — conclusion charts from my ninth grade English class. It does seem like a simple way of demonstrating the shapes of stories though, so I’d like to try out my own version of it.
Vonnegut’s stories each had one character that he focused on, but the story I’m telling has pushed the character I want to examine to the backburner, so I’m going to put the shape of both their experiences onto the chart for comparison.
First I’d like to start with the bare bones of the chart, just in case you opted out of clicking on the link to Vonnegut’s presentation. The ‘G’ and the ‘I’ on the vertical axis stand for ‘good’ and ‘ill’ overall status/health of the character, while the ‘B’ and the ‘E’ represent the timeline of the story.
Make sense? Okay. Moving on. Let’s throw up the second character’s shape so that you can examine the comparison while I’m discussing the other character’s progression through the story.
Pretty cool, yeah? They seem to luck out a lot in this story.
The real beginning to this story is really hard to find facts about – mostly there are lots of vague references and allusions scattered about, but for the sake of keeping the timeline shorter, I’m starting it out a bit later down the line.
So anyway, the main character starts out pretty close to the I on the vertical access. Everyone thinks they’re stupid and incapable of doing anything, including taking care of themselves or even thinking rationally. Following that logic (which everyone does in this story, for a very long time), they are kept out of almost every activity you could think of. They have a pretty rough go of things and everything stays stagnant for quite a bit of time.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere unless you do some analysis of the story, things change for the better. Their status improves, people start to listen to them, they start to have more confidence in themselves, they start to make a bit of money — and so on and so forth. The bulk of this progress is the result of their own hard work and that of the friends they’ve made who have it better than they do. The other characters, by a slight majority, are pretty pleased with the progress and laud themselves for opening their minds about them to the extent that they have.
Oh, and then things stay pretty much the same. I probably should have mentioned that this story hasn’t ended yet, but I hope one or two of you recognized the plot. I also hope it’s obvious who I’m rooting for here. For those of you who haven’t figured out what I’m talking about, this next part is for you:
Anyway, now that you’ve essentially watched me draw a very simple version of it, here’s the outcome:
(The real moral of this story is that I have minimal art skills)
I’m not sure I approached this assignment in the way that was expected, but one of my goals for this course was to tie in issues that are important to me when and where I can; this seemed like a good enough opportunity to do so. Even though we most likely won’t be around to see it, I think it’s important for us all to work toward closing the gap between the two shapes on this chart.
It is also very important for me to add that it is impossible to draw the shape of this story using only two lines. The ugly truth of our society is that regardless of some pieces of legislation that attempt to keep it from happening, the shape of every individual person’s story is influenced by their class, gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and geographical location. For example, the plight of women of color is generally different from that of a white woman. The statistic that women make 77 cents for every $1 men make only applies to white women and white men; Latina women make only 52 cents for that same dollar, while Latino men make less than white men but still more than Latina women. In short, there is a lot of work to do, and I do mean a lot.
Unfortunately, that work isn’t being done by nearly enough people, so in the words of Emily Haines from Metric, “break your own glass ceiling.”
If you aren’t already familiar with Tumblr, become so. This was a post made following the return of power to the Super Bowl stadium tonight. According to what we’ve learned in this class so far, this is a digital story on several accounts.
Tumbr allows people to communicate with one another in much the same way that Twitter does, except there is more opportunity to make the posts into stories themselves. People post a picture, a song, an image, or text, and other people can add their own commentary to it and then post both the original content and their addition.
In this case, the power went out during the Super Bowl, which is being played tonight in New Orleans. If you aren’t already aware, Tumblr has a fairly large social justice community, so many of the posts people make are critical of injustices resulting from privilege, racism, etc. In this case, a person was making a joke (except kind of not really) about the lack of concern for the situation of people in New Orleans (who are largely lower class, racial minorities) and the fact that suddenly people care about the efficiency of basic amenities in the region because it got in the way of them watching a football game.
Somebody else responded, posting a .gif of Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon from an episode of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” which demonstrated their reaction to the slam made in the above comment. I’m not advance enough with this stuff to do more than take a screenshot, so you don’t get the full effect of the .gif here.
This post demonstrates the way the internet can connect people and be a place where people can join together and communicate with each other using digital media and social media sites. The stories people create in digital spaces can be funny, sad, mind blowing, or any combination of these and much more.