Some readers see death, but when I read the story "Today Will Be a Quiet Day" by Amy Hempel, I find it to be a light hearted, first-hand account of people coping with transition. Even its location in the table of contents under the heading "Childhood and Adolescent" (Barnet), implies that the story is not about death at all. A newly defined family, one man, a boy and a girl, is faced with the aftermath of divorce and explore among themselves the intricacies of life. The story gives us sublime but keen insight into the transition and adjustments these three people make in this story.
The children’s transition is marked by a rivalry, one that surfaces early on in the story and is portrayed through delightful banter and retorts. The children’s bantering relieves some stress created by the unknown tiny steps they are taking in establishing a new type of relationship with their father in the absence of their mother. At no time do the children’s harmless antics towards one another escalate as indicated by critic Tara Baker when she explains that their arguments become deeper than the usual childish bickering. Baker seems to believe the children’s digs into one another are being fueled by difficult situations they have had to deal with lately (170).
Brian Motzenbecker supports my idea that the parents are divorced but finds symbolism in what the children discuss and the father’s "quips" (174). I can suggest to the contrary that these stories within the story are meaningful but not symbolic at all. The rapid succession of jumping from one topic to the next suggests to me that the need for conversation without a break is necessary. It keeps everyone from simultaneously t...
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...d happily due to the father being able to encompass the entire day’s events into his affirmation. The natural resilience his children display is admirable and probably has much to do with how he and their mother raised them. They show a type of frustration that is both contained and civilized. They avoid expressing their emotions too much throughout the story. Their lives are continuing, and at this point I’m sure the children know that even their father is going to be "all right."
Baker, Tara. "Is Today Really Quiet?" Ode To Friendship Ed. Connie Bellamy. Virginia Beach: Gann Designs, 1997.
Hemple, Amy. "Today Will Be a Quiet Day." Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Motzenbecker, Brian. "Does It Spell Disaster?" Ode To Friendship. Ed. Connie Bellamy. Virginia Beach: Gann Designs, 1997.
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