Trumpet of the Swan: Short Story Review: Miriam

by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley

Almost a decade before Truman Capote introduced Holly Golightly to literary society, he created eerie Miriam, the titular character in a short story published in A Tree of Night and Other Stories, 1949:

“Her long hair was the longest and strangest Mrs. Miller had ever seen: absolutely silver-white, like an albino’s. It flowed waist-length in smooth, loose lines. She was thin and fragiley constructed. There was a special elegance in the way she stood with her thumbs in the pockets if a tailored plum-velvet coat. . . . She touched a paper rose in a vase on the coffee table. “Imitation,” she commented wanly. “How sad. Aren’t imitations sad?”

Next to Truman Capote’s unique writings, imitations can only pale.

Click on the link to view: “La Côte Basque, 1965”

To Kill A Mockingbird: Dramatica Story Analysis

by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley

 “I ain’t cynical, Miss Alexandra. Tellin’ the truth’s not cynical, is it?”—Dill

The events in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird are told from the point of view of six-year-old Scout Finch, as she witnesses the transformations that take place in her small Alabama town during a controversial trial in which her father agrees to defend a black man who is unjustly accused of raping a white woman. The narrative voice, however, is that of a mature woman, looking back on these events from the perspective of adulthood. Her story depicts the gradual moral awakening of the two children as they come to appreciate their father’s courage and integrity in resisting the pressures of small-town bigotry and injustice. They come to realize that things are not always what they seem and that the individual must sometimes be willing to defend unpopular views if he believes that he is doing what is right. (Angyal, 1986, p. 1677)

The boy next door to main character Jean Louise (Scout) Finch in Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird is Charles Baker (Dill) Harris—a character based on Harper Lee’s childhood friend, fellow writer Truman Capote. Dill comes to Maycomb each summer to visit his Aunt Stephanie Crawford. Scout describes Dill as “a curiosity . . . his hair was snow white and stuck to his head like duck-fluff; he was a year my senior but I towered over him. . . . We came to know Dill as a pocket Merlin, whose head teemed with eccentric plans, strange longings, and quaint fancies” (Lee, 1960, p. 8).

Scout’s impact character, the “Boo” next door, is shy recluse Arthur Radley:
“The Radley Place jutted into a sharp curve beyond our house. . . . The house was low, was once white with a deep front porch and green shutters, but had long ago darkened to the colour of the slate-grey yard around it. Rain-rotten shingles drooped over the eaves of the veranda; oak trees kept the sun away. The remains of a picket fence drunkenly guarded the front yard . . .” (Lee, 1960, p. 9).

In addition to fulfilling the sidekick role, Dill serves as an echo of Boo’s loneliness:

“Why do you reckon Boo Radley’s never run off?” Dill sighed a long sigh and turned away from me. “Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off to . . .” (Lee, 1960, p. 159).

Yet unlike Boo, Dill can entertain a hope of escape:

“I think I’ll be a clown when I get grown . . . there ain’t one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I’m gonna join the circus and laugh my head off” (Lee, 1960, p. 238).

Atticus Finch, Scout’s father, counsels Scout: “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them” (Lee, 1960, p. 308). The following Dramatica througline synopsis and act order describes Boo Radley’s storyline, the “mockingbird” in Lee’s masterpiece, where Scout ultimately discovers “. . . just standing on the Radley porch was enough” (Lee, 1960, p. 308).

Arthur (Boo) Radley’s Throughline Synopsis
As a young boy Boo Radley fell in with the wrong crowd causing his father to shut him away in their home. Boo is not seen or heard again for fifteen years until he coolly stabs his father’s leg with a pair of scissors, causing fresh scandal and contributing to the neighborhood legend of the Radley house of horrors:

“You reckon he’s crazy?” Miss Maudie shook her head.” “If he’s not he should be by now. The things that happen to people we really never know. What happens in households behind closed doors, what secrets . . .” (Lee, 1960, p. 51). The children of the neighborhood are equal parts fascinated and terrified of Boo, but as time goes by, they come to realize he is only a gentle soul who has their best interests at heart.

“I sometimes felt a twinge of remorse, when passing by the old place, at ever having taken part in what must have been sheer torment to Arthur Radley—what reasonable recluse wants children peeping through his shutters, delivering greetings on the end of a fishing pole, wandering in his collards at night?” (Lee, 1960, p. 267)

Throughline as it relates to Manipulation
Boo Radley must maneuver within the confines of the way people think about him. Keeping Boo hidden away creates a mystique fueled by ignorance and fear to surround Boo, undermining his efforts to function in the outside world.

Concern as it relates to Developing a Plan

In order to make friends with the children without frightening them, Boo comes up with the idea of leaving them gifts in a tree.

Thematic Issue as it relates to Circumstances
Boo Radley is very unhappy with his environment. He is a recluse, and the implication is that is it is not by his own choice. He makes several attempts to alleviate his lonely state by trying to befriend the children. He eventually is able to make a positive impact on the children, Scout in particular; they come to understand he is not a monster, and the circumstances surrounding his life were and are beyond his control.

Thematic Issue Counterpoint as it relates to Situation

A reasonable evaluation of Maycomb finds Boo Radley as only one of its many eccentrics.

Thematic Conflict as it relates to Circumstances vs. Situation
Boo’s living situation is desolate, which leaves him emotionally deprived of friendship.

Problem as it relates to Desire
Boo’s drive to befriend and protect the children is a problem for him because, in the Radley family way of doing things, his older brother wants him to keep to himself. As an example, after discovering Boo has been putting gifts in a tree for Scout and Jem, Nathan Radley fills the knot-hole with cement to stop him from continuing.

Solution as it relates to Ability
When the children are in danger of being killed, Boo is able to save their lives, which enables him afterward to come forward and meet them, “He turned to me and nodded towards the front door. ‘You’d like to say good night to Jem, wouldn’t you, Mr. Arthur? Come right in'” (Lee, 1960, p. 305).

Symptom as it relates to Projection

The probability that Scout will never meet Boo is a problem for her, as she will never learn to accept him until she does:
“But I still looked for him each time I went by. Maybe someday we would see him . . . It was only a fantasy. We would never see him. He probably did go out when the moon was down and gaze at Miss Stephanie Crawford. I’d have picked somebody else to look at, but that was his business. He would never gaze at us.” (Lee, 1960, p. 267)

Response as it relates to Speculation
Scout spends a considerable amount of time fantasizing about ever meeting Boo, as she looks for him each time she passes by his house, “‘You aren’t starting that again, are you?’ said Atticus one night, when I expressed a stray desire just to have one good look at Boo Radley before I died. ‘If you are, I’ll tell you right now: stop it'” (Lee, 1960, p. 267).

Unique Ability as it relates to Circumstances
Boo must carry Jem back to the Finch’s for medical attention. These circumstances result in Scout, in her own home, to literally confront her personal problem—the man she has prejudiced herself against.

Critical Flaw as it relates to Senses
Boo has been made an invisible being by his family. As no-one can see or hear him, his efforts at making friends are blocked.

Benchmark as it relates to Changing One’s Nature
As Boo overcomes his shyness toward the children he is able to envision ways to make friends with them.

The Impact Character Throughline Act Order:
Impact Character Signpost 1 as it relates to Playing a Role

Boo Radley appears to the townspeople to be:
“. . . a malevolent phantom. People said he existed but Jem and I had never seen him. People said he went out at night when the moon was high, and peeped in windows. When people’s azaleas froze in a cold snap, it was because he had breathed on them. Any stealthy crimes committed in Maycomb were his work.” (Lee, 1960, p. 9)

Impact Character Journey 1 from Playing a Role to Changing One’s Nature

Boo’s impact on the children changes from them looking t him as being a horror locked away from the light of day to becoming a strange and curious friendly spirit:

“‘ . . . he’s crazy, I reckon, like they say, but Atticus, I swear to God he ain’t ever harmed us, he ain’t ever hurt us, he coulda cut my throat from ear to ear that night but he tried to mend my pants instead’. . . It was obvious that he had not followed a word Jem said, for all Atticus said was, ‘You’re right. We’d better keep this and the blanket to ourselves. Some day, maybe, Scout can thank him for covering her up.’ ‘Thank who?’ I asked. ‘Boo Radley. You were so busy looking at the fire you didn’t know it when he put the blanket around you.’ My stomach turned to water and I nearly threw up” (Lee, 1960, pp. 79-80)
Once Jem realizes Boo is the one leaving gifts for the children, he is able to overcome his fear of Boo and decides to write him a thank you note to continue this new line of communication, “‘Dear sir,’ said Jem. ‘We appreciate the—no, we appreciate everything which you have put into the tree for us. Your very truly, Jeremy Atticus Finch'” (Lee, 1960, p. 68).

Impact Character Signpost 2 as it relates to Changing One’s Nature

Although the children still think of Boo as a frightening phantom, his actions have transformed him into more of a friendly ghost than an evil apparition ready to cause harm.

Impact Character Journey 2 from Changing One’s Nature to Conceiving an Idea
As Boo becomes more human in the children’s eyes, they cannot conceive of why he has remained in what must be a miserable existence:
“‘Why do you reckon Boo Radley’s never run off?’ Dill sighed a long sigh and turned away from me. ‘Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere to run off to . . .” (Lee, 1960, p. 159).

Impact Character Signpost 3 as it relates to Conceiving an Idea
The children spend countless hours devising ways to meet Boo Radley:
“Dill had hit upon a fool-proof plan to make Boo Radley come out at no cost to ourselves (place a trail of lemon drops from the back door to the front yard and he’d follow it like an ant).” (Lee, 1960, p. 159)

Impact Character Journey 3 from Conceiving an Idea to Developing a Plan

Up until Scout and Jem are really in danger, the ideas Boo has come up with to make friends with the children have left his identity ambiguous. Once he sees Bob Ewell terrorizing them, he devises and implements a plan to save them, that in turn reveals to the children he is the man who has watched over them for many years.

Impact Character Signpost 4 as it relates to Developing a Plan
Boo has the idea “his” children are in danger and comes up with a way to protect them, that ultimately saves their lives.

Sources Cited:
Angyal, A. J. (1986). To Kill a Mockingbird. In F. N. Magill (Ed.), Masterplots II (pp. 1677-1681). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press
Lee, H. (1960). To Kill a Mockingbird. London: Mandarin.

Paper Weight

by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley’

“Elizabeth Brown
Preferred a book
To going on a date.

While friends went out
And danced till dawn,
She stayed up reading late.”
— The Library by Sarah Stewart

Brace Yourself: Interview with a Thirteen Year Old Girl

by Katharine Elizabeth Monahan Huntley

“Elvira: ‘You are really lucky not to have a mother . . . the questions she asks! Morning, noon, and night. Where are you going, and who have you met? And are they cousins of somebody else of the same name in Yorkshire? I mean, the futility of it all.’

Bridget: ‘I suppose they have nothing else to think about.'”—At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie © 1963

Thirteen-year-old Nichole Alexandra Lopez’s braces are pink. Far from shy, she laughs when boys get red, yet if she witnesses peers making fun of geeks, she says: “Omigod, don’t.” As we chat in a local bowling alley / arcade where she is babysitting little sister Jacque, the junior high student alternates between touching up her flawless face, flipping back her highlighted hair, and rolling her twin glims at any mention of the parental units’ rules and regulations. We are both wearing identical sterling silver hoop earrings. I ask to borrow her Clinique.

Nichole: Which one?
Several Clinique products appear from out of her black Volcom purse: pressed powder, lip gloss, make-up brush.

Nichole: I learned how to put on make-up from my cousin, Amanda. She’s sixteen.

WBTL: Where do you clothes shop?

Nichole: Abercrombie, Billabong, Forever 21.

WBTL: Or, as I like to call it—For Over 21.

“For Safety, Swim in Supervised Area.”
Nichole is wearing an Encinitas Junior Lifeguard tee that drops to her knees, flared size 0 jeans, and sneaks.

WBTL: Why is your shirt so long?

Nichole: My dad made me wear it.

WBTL: What about at school? Doesn’t everyone change clothes? I remember keeping an extra set in my locker.

Nichole laughs and pleads the fifth.

WBTL: Entertainment?

Nichole: Music, TV. Like, mostly MTV. America’s Funniest Home Videos. Fear Factor.

Jacque: Courage the Cowardly Dog.

Nichole: There you go. Cartoon Network.

WBTL: Music?

Nicole: Snoop Dog. Ludacris — “Stand-Up,” Lil Jon, & the East Side Boyz’ “Get Low” is my favorite song of all time. Right now 50 Cent is in my CD player. Ever heard of Chingy?

I laugh and plead lack of hip.

WBTL: You’ve always attended private schools. This year’s your first in a public. What’s it like?

Nichole: You learn more about the outside world, like . . . like fights and cussing out people. Not as much attention to academics. Sometimes I mess around with my friends and forget to do homework. More people to choose from. More talking about guys. Yeah, and people asking you to ditch school.

WBTL: To go where?

Nichole: Starbucks.

Nicole’s mother inserts an anecdote about her daughter:
“On Thursdays, Nicole’s school starts at 9:00 o’clock instead of its usual time of 8:00. I drop her off at a church where she is supposed to stay until 8:30 and then she is to walk directly over to school. One Thursday I was sick. I brought her to the church then went to Rite Aid for my prescription. Afterwards, I drove by the church and saw her running out the door with her girlfriends. Naturally, I decided to see where she was going. First, they went into donut shop. Then as they walked back, her friends took a turn towards Starbucks. Nicole hesitated for a moment, and then went on to school. The next Thursday I gave her extra money, and said ‘why don’t get a couple extra donuts today?’ She looked at me, shocked.”

Nichole, of course, is savvy enough to know answering certain questions will only lead to more questions — the bane of any teenager worth her mad text messaging skillz.

As we continue the interview, Nichole pretends to ignore the two sixteen-year-old boys watching her.

Nichole: That’s Kort and his friend. He walks here all the way from school. I don’t know why.

WBTL: Oh, I know why.

Nichole: Their numbers are really high up there.

WBTL: How many people go to your school?

Nichole: There are about 1500 in the 7th and 8th grades. At one point traffic came to a standstill in the halls. I know a lot of people. A group of us eat lunch in the amphitheater. One of my friends went up to this guy and said “Omigod, you like Nichole, right?” And he’s like, “Yeah, okay, now go away.”

WBTL: Have your heard about the movie Thirteen?

Nichole: I know about it. It makes you think about drugs and how you react to that. You think about friendship and how you have to stop that. I would tell . . . I would probably say no. I don’t need to show off or copy.

WBTL: Your parents are strict. Do you wish the situation were different?

Nichole: Yeah . . . like, I’d like to at least go out to the mall by myself—with my friends. [Sigh] Maybe when I’m sixteen.

WBTL: Jacque is seven. What advice will you give her when she’s thirteen?

Nichole: Don’t follow your friends.

WBTL: Do you think she will?

Nichole: Yeah. She’s already doing it.

Nichole and Jacque jump onto Dance Dance Revolution Extreme to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” executing the steps gracefully, and in sync.

Swimming Pool “I was thirteen the first time. I haven’t stopped since,” is the insouciant line mystery writer Charlotte Rampling’s publisher’s daughter drops in this sensual thriller. Wade in, this isn’t your mother’s Agatha Christie.
Thirteen Director/writer Catherine Hardwicke and her teen-aged co-writer Nicki Reed present a modern day Go Ask Alice with this high wire act between self-esteem and the ages of 11, 12, and 13.