Category: Literature Responses


"A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (2001)

After reading this very unique short story, I was confused as to why Harty decided to create the character Cole as a robot. Initially, the main conflict of the story seems to be solely a father trying to save his injured son, but as the story progresses and flashes back to the past, the conflict reveals itself to be more complicated. There seems to be two external conflicts in this story: one between the father and son, and the other between the father and mother, Mike and Dana. The internal conflict, on the other hand, is within only Mike: his desire to maintain his marriage while refusing to allow the change of his son (by “upgrading” him). The couple of external conflicts that work upon Mike is successful in creating even more tension, pulling him apart in many directions, and therefore strengthening the tension of the inner conflict.

Now for the most unique decision on the author’s part – what is the effect of making Cole a robot? If the conflicts that I listed above are accurate, then couldn’t the story have been written without the inclusion of a robotic character, perhaps by creating a human son with an illness? Constantly throughout the story, the robotic son is described with human characteristics such as experiencing worry, dreams, pain, sadness, etc. The only difference is that the fact that Cole is robotic prevents his “death” in the case of physical injury. Considering that the main conflict is directly revolved around the parents’ son, the decision to make Cole robotic gains value. Every time Cole ends up in a terrible physical accident, Dana is reminded that living with this robotic boy is a “dream” (as she terms it), and wakes up to the reality that their real son is dead. Although the decision to make the son human and ill as opposed to robotic could result in the same conflicts listed above, the robotic feature is essential to the particular conflict in this story, in which the theme of accepting reality is presented. A human son with an illness does not easily allow for that. The decision for a robotic character seems unnecessary at first, but is actually the foundation for the conflict in this story.

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From the beginning of this short story, tension is created through the aggressive attitude of the protagonist, Jack. His personality is portrayed by the specific word choice on the very first page such as “humiliate,” “mercilessly,” and “rotten,” all spoken from first-person. Early on, the source of this attitude begins to reveal itself with the introduction of another character, Carl, living a happy life with a family, opposite to Jack’s. The intense interactions between Jack and Carl reveal Jack’s unreasonable hatred towards Carl, hinting at a deep, inner conflict related to his past family that leads the reader to become “hooked” to discover more. A new character is then introduced (aside from the title), Happy Chang. As Jack searches to discover the true nature of Happy’s relationship with his daughter Lori, the inner conflict and pursuit of a goal of Jack moves uphill, inevitably towards an anticipated resolution and climax. Happy Chang’s reaction to the injuring of his daughter near the end of the story triggers this, causing Jack to gain the confidence to admit his failure as an umpire, a huge change from his usual self. By now, his goal is clear and and has been confronted: to gain forgiveness from his family as a new man that accept responsibility and failure. This story is excellently crafted in such a way as to lead up to this one moment of resolution, building tension on the way through the protagonist’s external conflicts in his interactions with other characters.

In all honesty, when I read the very first sentence of this short story, “Lately I don’t dream about Anthony. I dream about the rotary.” my expectations were set pretty low. Before finishing a page of the story, I already had an expectation that the plot would be cliche, unimpressive, and simply, boring. “A plot about a relationship between a girl and a guy? A plot about a rotary?” I thought skeptically. Giving the short story a chance, however, I soon realized the depth of meaning within the story I had initially thought to be so simple. Despite the plot weighing heavily on the seemingly bland topic of a rotary, the powerful effect that this factor had on a deeper meaning of the story is incredible.

Constantly throughout the story, the main character’s internal conflict with driving through a rotary is paralleled so well with her unwillingness to get involved with her boyfriend Anthony sexually. If this short story was merely about the conflict between the main character and Anthony, I feel that it would be portrayed much less effectively. The plot of the main character’s situation with the rotary serves as a great analogy to that of her relationship with Anthony, and describes it with much more depth than the method of trying to describe the relationship directly. What I expected to be so irrelevant and ineffective turned out to be vital in making this short story have a lasting effect. Now that I think about it, everything that the author has written serves an important purpose for the meaning of the story. Especially the colloquial tone that the main character uses in itself portrays her personality more effectively, and therefore, helps to complicate the meaning of the entire story. Taking even the inherently simple and uncreative and using it in a completely unexpected way proves to be very creative in Dessen’s short story. This method also reminds me of poetry, how a situation or object is described in ways never before explained.

Poetry 180 Summary/Reflection

The poem that I chose to present in my Creative Writing class was “The Blizzard,” by Phillis Levin. The first thing that that struck me while reading this was the chilling imagery that is created in the third stanza.”Igloos rise,” “gargoyles fly,” icicles shatter,” “paralyzed avenues” – all of these phrases are described to create an emotional response in addition to the imagery that is so nicely drawn here. That emotion for me was fear. What’ amazing is that the very next line after the third stanza is “Verify every fear.” This suggests that the third stanza was written to create a better sense of this fear that the people in the blizzard were experiencing, and the transition between the third and fourth stanza is especially smooth and flowing.

The structure of this poem is strictly three lines per stanza, with relatively similar lengths in lines. This presents the poem formally, exuding a more formal poem than poems of free verse. This structure choice really helps focus on the meaning of the poem. Through analysis, I noticed that this poem has many potential meanings, layered behind each other. For instance, is the poem just about how devastating a natural disaster is for a community? Or could it have a deeper meaning, such as the narrator’s possible disapproval of technology (shown through the hindsight written and the joy that is revealed when people are talking to each other in person due to the lack of phone use). All of these meanings are pretty serious topics – they’re not meanings that can be taken so lightly – and the seriousness of them is emphasized through the formal structure of this poem