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The Door by E.B. White

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The Door by E.B. White


(1) As humans search for meaning and purpose in their lives, the constant changes of everyday life that they encounter can be overwhelming and frustrating. E. B. White gives us an example of this in his story "The Door." The theme of this story is that too much awareness and analysis of life’s frustrations can drive human kind insane and render them powerless.


(2) The protagonist of this story is sucked in by his need to understand the frustrations of life. He is always seeking relief from his awareness of these frustrations; just when he thinks he has picked the correct path or door, ("the one with the circle on it"), the professor "changes that door on [him]." Consequently, the protagonist repeatedly encounters obstacles that block his ability to gain relief from his dissatisfaction. The insanity of never being satisfied with his lot in life, is prevalent in the protagonist's persistent refusal to give up his search for fulfillment ("jumping at the door"), much like the junkie's persistent refusal to give up that last fix. Finally, as his very life spins out of control, he finally succumbs to his frustrations the only way he can; through a lobotomy, he becomes willing to "meet the soft ground."

(3) One way that White draws out his theme is through conflict. The main conflict in this story is powerlessness versus control. The protagonist continuously compares himself with the rats in a maze (like the Skinner box). The rats, which have no control over their environment, are being driven crazy by the Professor, who demands that they "deal with problems which are beyond the scope of rats." In an attempt to control their actions, the Professor first rewards the rats with food. Ho...


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White's fragmented wording here punctuates the protagonist's confusion and establishes a crazed or disturbed tone. The contradictions and retractions in sentences such as "...and the thing that you touched was rubber, only it wasn't quite rubber and you didn't quite touch it but almost" also suggest confusion and inner conflict, in addition to reinforcing the protagonist's obsession with analyzing.

(8) From the start of the very first paragraph, by using words such as "duroid," "duro," and "flexsand," White forces the reader to join the protagonist in his insanity and his need to analyze. By immersing the reader into the story, White further brings out the theme by allowing the reader to identify with the protagonist's frustration, powerlessness, need to analyze. The reader then becomes enmeshed in the protagonist's journey on the road to insanity.

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