Angel of Tough Love and other stories Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/db78tf321

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  • The overarching theme of these stories is the relationship between love and hate, especially the connection between kindness and violence. In this fictional world, love often begets hate, and hate, love: a man's capacity for empathy serves as the catalyst for an act of brutality; a character's loneliness, his desire for love, causes him to chivvy members of his church congregation, while the same character's unambiguous overtures of friendship produce revulsion in the narrator; the victim of a man's complicity coaxes him to take a beating that, in effect, heals him; and a sexual encounter, violent in its impersonality, its objectification of a woman, gives rise to a comment that awakens the abuser's conscience as well as his regard for his victim. One may undermine the other: in the story involving sexual abuse, the woman treats the men lovingly, like people, and in so doing erodes their ability to treat her as something less than human; a character's habitual spite finds its way into his marriage, damaging the most important (and the only loving) relationship in his life. And they sometimes exchange clothes: a man's attacks on his neighbor and the neighbor's quest for revenge mimic a courtship, are the beginnings of a relationship; the character who hurts his wife does it by perverting an act of love; friends and coworkers express affection by insulting one another and by pretending to fight. What is the point of this juxtaposition and mingling of supposed opposites? To be honest, I'm not sure I know. I wrote these stories without conscious intent, and gathered them into the same collection accidentally: there were others that didn't quite work, and which had nothing much to do with amity and strife, that might have been included, too, had they been better or more finished. Still, I, like any other reader, can divine a few meanings. With their frequent inversion and mingling of love and hate, these stories might serve as one piece of evidence that all things contain the kernel of their opposite. Given the right circumstances--enough time, a narrative--they will demonstrate affinity. This Hegelian interdependence of opposites implies a correlary--narratives procede by dialectic: love heads into hate, or hate into love, and the synthesis of these two spawns a hybrid possessing bits of its progenitors. "Angel of Tough Love" provides an example of this sublation: boy's complicitous response to a beating alienates him from himself--thesis; he accepts an invitation to enter a crucible of hate and love, to do the opposite of remaining a bystander--antithesis; he emerges whole and yet changed, at peace for the first time--synthesis. Another conclusion, one that does not contradict the first: if love may lead to hate and hate to love, then the value of each impulse and action depends on context. Fine motives, however pure, might produce ghastly results if a full understanding of circumstances, a broad and informed point of view, is not present, too: perspective, point of view, is seminal. And yet--with the possible exception of those with mystical gifts, who may rely on Dionysian rapture or its equivalent to grant them views of entire causal chains--our points of view are limited; we cannot know all the ramifications of our actions. (And, at least in one sense, it seems that we aren't supposed to know: a story hatched whole is bound to be boring and, well, predictable.) So we are left to examine our motives and anticipate what consequences we can. It's not much, but it will have to do. Love conquers all, sometimes. A kind word--or just an honestly felt one--may change a mind or an afternoon, now and then. We're all in the same dirt boat, heading somewhere, so we might as well use the oars provided and hope that our imaginations, incrementally, will point us in the right direction. Some of the time, we may row in concert.
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  • File scanned at 300 ppi (Monochrome) using Capture Perfect 3.0 on a Canon DR-9050C in PDF format. CVista PdfCompressor 4.0 was used for pdf compression and textual OCR.
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