Comparing Relationships in Susan Minot's Lust and Coraghessan Boyle's Carnal Knowledge

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Comparing Relationships in Susan Minot's Lust and Coraghessan Boyle's Carnal Knowledge

"After the briskness of loving, loving stops"-Susan Minot

This quote from Minot summarizes the love affairs in her short story "Lust" and T. Coraghessan Boyle's short story "Carnal Knowledge." The protagonists in these stories go to great lengths to please their significant others hoping to find loving, fulfilling relationships. They make sacrifices and relinquish certain degrees of power to find happiness, only to discover that this happiness is temporary. Both authors use literary techniques to enhance these themes. The short stories "Lust" and "Carnal Knowledge" maintain that relationships that lack an honest, loving foundation and a lack of balance of power end abruptly and cause pain and loneliness.

The love the narrator hopes to find in Minot's "Lust" continually eludes her. The story consists of a young female narrator recollecting her numerous sexual experiences with numerous partners. Her motivation is not licentious, nor is she proud of her experiences, she is only struggling to find comfort and emotional fulfillment. Unfortunately, her experiences only take her further and further from the love and acceptance she yearns for. Sex initially makes the narrator feel loved, appreciated, and valued. She loved feeling "safe, at rest, in a restful dream" (258), as she would feel when he would first begin touching her with tender caresses. It becomes almost an addiction for her, a necessity for happiness. Ironically, it is an addiction that does not satisfy the need. Like a drug, sex brings the narrator a temporary means of escape and a temporary "high", yet after the the "high" is gone, she feels empty, alone, and ...

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...d the last few paragraphs have no mention of Alena. This also helps to demonstrate how she flew in and out of Jim's life. Her effect on him was very short-lived and impermanent, and he is able to return to his old way of life after she is gone.

Both "Lust" and "Carnal Knowledge" examine very brief love affairs. The relationships depicted in each story lack a solid foundation, therefore they cannot last. Power imbalances exist in these relationships that intensify the pain of the protagonists. Both characters initially derive great pleasure from the relationship only for it to slip away and leave them feeling empty and lonely because "After the briskness of loving, loving stops."

Works Cited

Boyle, T. Coraghessan. "Carnal Knowledge." The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 242-255.
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