Cynicism in Dorothy Allison's Short Story, This Is Our World

Cynicism in Dorothy Allison's Short Story, This Is Our World

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Cynicism in Dorothy Allison's Short Story, This Is Our World


Is “The world is meaner than we admit” (Allison 159)? In the short story, “This Is Our World,” Dorothy Allison asks this question, and her response startled me. I disagree with her way of thinking. Allison says that the world is a cruel, mean place. I think that the cruelty is balanced out with the goodness in the world. I was surprised to read her negative examples of how bad of a place it is that we live in and call “home.” This story was written with reference to events and occurrences that I have never experienced and things I have never seen. I found it difficult to relate to these events.

The minister, the narrator, and her mother walked around the building where the narrator’s mother was to be baptized. Then they looked at the baptismal font. Allison states, “Watching baptisms in that tank was like watching movies at a drive-in” (155). I was glad to read that the narrator was not the one being baptized, because I feel she did not understand the true significance of the baptism ritual. She spoke of the Jesus painting as being, “rouged and pale and pout as Elvis Presley” (155). She was also trying not to giggle at the other little boys that were being baptized that day, “He looked as if he hoped someone would rescue him. It was too much for me. I began to giggle helplessly” (156). The narrator was too young to understand fully what it meant to be baptized. I believe that it is one of the reasons that Allison has such a negative attitude towards life. Maybe she did not agree or understand the meaning of a baptism, or religion as a whole. This could stem from a broken home life and no strong father figure.

Although I have been fortunate enough to have a father and mother who love me a great deal, I still think the world can be cruel and mean. But meaner than we think? Every day we hear of some new tragedy that she speaks of, “the woman who drowned her children, the man who shot first the babies in her arms and then his wife, the teenage boys who led the three-year-old away along the train track, the homeless family recovering from frostbite with their eyes glazed and indifferent while the doctor scowled over their shoulders” (159), but every day we also hear of the good things.

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We hear of the hero who saved a woman from a burning house, and the boy who saved a stray dog and then found a loving home to adopt it. We hear of the family who adopts another child who just lost his or her family in a car accident. Is it just that the bad moments are more memorable? Are the bad stories what stick out more? Bad things happen every day, but there are also many good things of which Allison never speaks. Maybe she should reconsider her outlook on life and not be so negative. Allison had a rough childhood, one that would be challenging for anyone, but she should attempt to forgive what happened and have a more positive outlook. Things tend to become easier when a person is positive and has an optimistic outlook.

I enjoyed the story “This Is Our World,” but it is depressing to read. I did not appreciate Allison’s incessant negativity. I think it was unnecessary for her to be so cynical. On the other hand, would I have the same attitude towards life if I had gone through some of the same experiences? I hope I am never so unfortunate as to have to discover this for myself.

Works Cited

Allison, Dorothy. “This Is Our World.” Seeing & Writing. Ed. D. McQuade and C. McQuade. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2000.
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