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Autor: anton 23 June 2011
Words: 1072 | Pages: 5
Choice and Circumstance
What happens when the life we choose for ourselves conflicts with the life that is
chosen for us? Ð²Ð‚ÑšShoplifters,Ð²Ð‚Ñœ by Maura Stanton, describes a group of shoplifters whose
circumstances speak to the theme of isolation. They are alone, stealing by choice to fill
the void they each share--a lack of relationship with another human. Ð²Ð‚ÑšNight Waitress,Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
by Lynda Hull, describes a woman working the night shift by choice. The waitress
complains to herself about the isolation she feels from her decision to take this job. She
too longs for relationship, but her situation makes her incapable of fostering any sort of
companionship. The structures of the two works share a similar pattern but in a reverse
order. One poem goes from focusing on a group to focusing on the individual; the
second poem does the opposite. In both works, routine intersects with reality--usually
represented by job related tasks against human nature and impulse. Then one must
ask if either of these categories are the result of personal choice or involuntary
circumstance. The poems Ð²Ð‚ÑšShopliftersÐ²Ð‚Ñœ and Ð²Ð‚ÑšNight WaitressÐ²Ð‚Ñœ illustrate the contrast
between choice and circumstance in the context of relationship, structure, and routine
The sense of loneliness and longing for relationship is so strong and easily
distinguished in both works. The shoplifters circumstances forces them to steal so
that they can foster or mend some type of relationship in their lives. All characters but
one choose to steal something that will benefit some other influence in their lives.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšNight WaitressÐ²Ð‚Ñœ is a different story. Her choice is determining her circumstance.
She longs and feels the need for relationship but chooses not to do anything about it
because of her job.
The lack of a male figure is also another common factor of the two works. Not
as easily recognized, but it is there. Ð²Ð‚ÑšShopliftersÐ²Ð‚Ñœ mentions three type of women, a
widowed mother, a nun, and two old sister. All three lacking the influence of a male
figure. The widowed mother has the lack due to death. The nun obviously is lacking a
male figure due to choice. The two old sisters could have the lack by choice or perhaps
just coincidence. They could be referred to as spinsters, which is a term used to
refer to single older women who live with other women.
Structure is a very important element in literature. Ð²Ð‚ÑšShopliftersÐ²Ð‚Ñœ and Ð²Ð‚ÑšNight
WaitressÐ²Ð‚Ñœ use a very unique type of structure. Ð²Ð‚ÑšShopliftersÐ²Ð‚Ñœ starts out with the phrase Ð²Ð‚ÑšIÐ²Ð‚â„¢d
smoke in the freezer among the hooked beefsides, wondering about the shoplifters who
wept when the managerÐ²Ð‚â„¢s nephew tugged them to his office.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Stanton, 1) This phrase
gives the poem a cold, dark sense. The poem ends up making a complete
position reversal. Ending with the phrase Ð²Ð‚ÑšNow he peers through the window, watching
me bag groceries for hours until my hands sweatÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Stanton, 38). The poem still has a
dark feel, but it now gives the sense of hot and sticky. Ð²Ð‚ÑšNight WaitressÐ²Ð‚Ñœ has a similar
reversal but instead of using temperature, it takes the reversal in the sense of
perception. The server talks as if she is invisible to the men that come into the
dinner at night, she says that they donÐ²Ð‚â„¢t see her because sheÐ²Ð‚â„¢s tired. Ð²Ð‚ÑšAt this hour the
men all look as if theyÐ²Ð‚â„¢d never had mothers. They donÐ²Ð‚â„¢t see me.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Hull, 10) By the end of
the poem this perception has turned. Ð²Ð‚ÑšMen surge to the factories and IÐ²Ð‚â„¢m too tired to
lookÐ²Ð‚Ñœ (Hull, 41). Instead of her being invisible to the men, they are invisible to her.
What is the quality that links the waitress and the bagger? Both poems are
told in the first-person, with both speakers discussing their occupations. It is a
description of routine, responsibility, and obligation. The waitress seems to view
herself as a robot: filling the customers' drinks, taking orders, and finding that she
is never noticed by her primarily male patrons. She believes that the time of night
makes it difficult for them to acknowledge her--as if she were not human. The
bagger is given the task of catching shoplifters, calling-out criminals, as part of her
job--or part of her programming. The routine actions of these main characters give
them machine-like qualities.
What happens when that which seems artificial mixes with reality? Perhaps the
reader could consider that these "robots" must interact with those who are human. For
example, the bagger, programmed to catch shoplifters, begins to verbally explore the
lives of the thieves. The shoplifters steal because of their pathetic circumstances, and
eventually, the bagger begins to be frightened by the guilt she feels from her actions. It
was her choice to take the position at the supermarket, but that choice determined her
circumstance of playing prosecutor. At the point where the bagger begins to "sweat"
from the stare of the old man, a shift is made: unfeeling action to guilt, robot to
human. The waitress, on the other hand, makes this shift in the opposite
direction. She works in the diner by choice, serving as if she does not exist, but still
yearning for human relationship. She describes her appearance, hoping that she is not
unattractive and brushing off the inattentiveness of the men as exhaustion. This
continual rejection of her human needs turns the waitress into what she describes as a
"machine." When she leaves work in the morning, she passes by all of the men
who are in the state that she would claim to be "attentive" to her as a person. She
does not acknowledge them. Instead, she walks past, emotionally numb from the
previous night's torture. She becomes what the men thought of her: a machine. It
was the waitress' choice to take the job. This choice dictated a circumstance that
eventually turned her into the embodiment of routine.
From first glance, it is difficult to see any similarities in the two works besides the
obvious, but after an in depth reading the prior can be argued. In my opinion, the two
works are similar in so many ways. Such as emotion, structure, and perspective. I feel
that the content of both stories could have been thought up in one persons mind, and
then transfered from thought to narrative by two separate authors.