Sunday, May 13, 2012

across the bridge

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Across the Bridge, and There is Modernism

WWAnalysis of the modernistic writing techniques in Across The Bridge

Across The Bridge, a short story written by Graham Greene deals with a cruel rich old man who exerts tremendous efforts to immigrate into America where his illusive intangible paradise is waving both hands to him at the other end of the bridge. As a model essay, it is widely hailed by contemporary critics mainly due to the modernistic writing techniques employed by Graham Greene.

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The limited first-person point of view is one of its most obvious features. On the one hand, Greene adopts the narrator “I” rather than the conventional omniscient narrator, on the other hand this first-person perspective differs greatly from the honest reliable ‘I” in earlier novels like The Great Gatsby. In this story, “I” have just been in this border area no more than two weeks and hardly know anything of Mr. Joseph Calloway. Moreover, Greene offers too little information of the narrator’s career, background, and family either by stating ambiguously or by avoiding these topics completely. Contrary to the traditional golden rule of hiding the author’s presence as much as possible, Greene gives “I”(the emblem of author himself) an unusual privilege to have a face-to-face discussion with readers about the plot and its comic elements. All the above techniques throw doubt on the reliability of the narrator.

Besides, the deliberate parodies of many epoch-making modernistic novels are also noteworthy. Firstly, the depiction of America in the image of a lighthouse is an ironical parody of To The Lighthouse. Secondly, the satirical comparison between the two corrupted border cities is a parody of the contrast between West Egg (city uncorrupted) and East Egg (city corrupted) in The Great Gatsby. Thirdly, Mr. Calloway’s dream of going to the paradise-like land in America is the corrupted American dream along with the wasteland motif. Finally, the futile torturing waiting scene is a distorted version of Waiting For Godot.

Lastly, we come to the impressive character of Mr. Calloway. For all his money and real estates, he is not pictured as a respectable elderly man but a cold-blooded “living dead”, he is not called a ‘millionaire” but just a creature “worth a million”, and his death did not arouse sympathy but disgust. In fact, the creation of negative or evil protagonists is strongly against the traditionally positive descriptions of heroes or heroines, and it prevents readers from identifying themselves with the protagonists.

To summarize, Graham Greene has left the realism behind him and reached the other end of the bridge¯the modernism. These modernistic techniques are very conspicuous and eye-catching in this story, and they contribute greatly for this story’s popularity in the literary circle.

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