Narrators Make the Difference

Narrators Make the Difference

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In Bharati Mukherjee's The Middleman and Other Stories, there is some very different and some very similar narrative voices. In the story "Loose Ends" the narrator is a hit man and he kills two people and is forced to flee, while fleeing he encounters more difficulties involving his old world beliefs and the ever changing America. In "Middle Man" the narrator already has committed a crime in the States and is in Nicaragua where he gets involved with a beautiful women who gets him stuck in the middle of some bad situations. The person in whom the narrative voice is coming from makes a big difference in your interpretation and understanding of the story. Through The eyes of two very unlikely narrators the author makes the reader ask the question as to what puts the narrator in the position that he or she is stuck in. Is it that they are being pulled in many different directions and they end up in a situation that they don't even realize they are in?

In "Loose Ends" the narrator is a Vietnam vet who is very confused and stuck in the middle. He is stuck between seeing the old ways go and not being able to adjust to the new ways of the United States. As years go by immigrants seem to become more and more accepted to our culture. This is what Marshal can't get used to. He is with it enough to realize that the old ways are disappearing though. He asks "Where did America go?"( 48). This shows that he realizes the ways are changing, but he just doesn't know how to handle it. He is a man who cannot get over the war, and he doesn't realize that strength will always be dominating. During the war the strongest man usually succeeds in a battle. If you have a disagreement the way it is worked out is by killing each other.

The narrator, Marshal, of this short story is very aware of his actions, and he knows that what he is doing is not always right. His training is always pulling him back and making him do what he was trained and is paid to do. He refers back to his training, "Doc Healy used to teach us: torch the whole hut and make sure you get the kids, the grannies, cringing on the sleeping mat- or else you'll meet them on the trail with fire in their eyes"(47).

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Things change when wars end. Normal life is not the same as war. People change and same with their theories on killing each other, especially when it involves women and children. He is in trouble because he did what he was trained to do in Vietnam. Marshal Killed the women who was in bed with the man who he killed. On the other hand he did know that what he was doing was not the right thing to do. While regretting later he says "Especially if young women are involved. You don't look so good anymore" (47). In the heat of the moment he did what he was trained to do but in the end he regrets it because he realizes that America is changing. He is stuck in the middle between the ways of Vietnam and the way the country works now.

In the "Middle Man" the narrator, Alfred, flees the States and ends up in Mexico. Although he is new to the area, he is very aware of its harshness. So do to this he says he is not going to get involved in anything. Alfred has something about him that is curious even though he does not want to be involved. "`What's in the crates?' I ask Maria" (10). What makes things difficult for him is he is too aware of the problems around him and it causes him to be nosy. It it is not to difficult to figure out that there is a problem and it is human nature to try and solve the problem. This is what gets Alfred in the middle of things that he can't get out of. He also has an obsticle against him that he has a weak spot for pretty woman. Maria just happens to be a pretty woman. When he tells her he doesn't want to drive the truck she responds with "`You won't. Say no to me, I mean. I'm a terrific judge of character'" (11). This is obviously a weak spot for Alfred, this girl who he hardly knows is drawing him into something that he does not want to be involved in.

In both of these stories the narrator is in the middle of something they don't want to be involved in. Alfred realizes he is involved in something that he shouldn't be involved with when it is too late. "How easily I've been recruited, when a bystander is all I wanted to be" (11). He is not the innocent man that he wanted to be. Yet he is also not a full fledged gun runner. He is just responsible for driving the guns to the guerillas. He committed to something that at the time he did not realize was such a bad thing. Very similar we see the hit man doing almost the same thing in "Loose Ends", he commits murder and kills a girl who witnessed the murder and in the moment he did not think it was bad but afterwards he saw what a bad thing he did. Both of these narrators don't know how to pull themselves into the spot where they would be comfortable. They need to catch up to the times that they are actually in.

The narrator in both of these short stories is someone that we would not normally hear a story told by. It is not very often you read a story out of the eyes and experiences of a fugitive. If Hollywood was going to produce "Loose Ends" they would probably show it to you through the eyes of one of the victims. And they most certainly wouldn't make you feel sympathy towards the killer. They would make you feel bad for the victim and make the killer out to be a monster with no emotions and no regret. Also similarly in "The Middleman" if Hollywood was going to produce this story they most certainly wouldn't show it through the eyes of the man who flees the States. They would probably show it through the eyes of Maria who, in a way, could be heroic. She kills her murderous husband and leaves all of the wealth to be with someone she loves. But at the same time you feel sympathy towards her because she is bought and sold like a car. Mukherjee causes these stories to be very interesting by putting the reader in the shoes of a fugitive.

Similarly, in both of these stories these characters are on the fringe of cultures. Alfred is struggling with the fact that he is now a minority, and he is new to the area and does not know who he can trust. On the other hand the Marshal in "Loose Ends" has been around for a very long time and he probably knows more about who to trust and who not to trust. Similar to Alfred though, he is feeling like an outcast. He thinks there is too many of the others coming into the country. "There are a lot of little brown people sitting cross-legged on the floor" (52). The way he talks about them makes it seem like they are in huge numbers and they are more like animals than humans. He seems like he can't accept the fact that the war is over and these people are not the enemy.

These characters were very similar in the way that they were outcasts stuck in the middle. They are on the fringe of their cultures beliefs. It is very interesting that they have been chosen as the narrators, because they are both certainly not the most sympathetic characters.

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