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The Portable Phonograph

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Zoe L

on 30 December 2014

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Transcript of The Portable Phonograph

By Walter Van Tilburg Clark
The Portable Phonograph
Setting: "A literary term used to identify and establish the time, place and mood of the events of the story. It basically helps in establishing where and when and under what circumstances the story is taking place."

Plot: 'Plot is a literary term defined as the events that make up a story. Particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, in a sequence, through cause and effect, how the reader views the story, or simply by coincidence.'
There are four characters introduced in this short story.

"The Portable Phonograph" has many different themes. One of the themes is don't take things for granted. A theme similar to that is you "don't really learn to appreciate the things you have until it is gone." The story teaches the reader to love the things you already have, because you never know how long you will have them. The portable phonograph and the books may be old, outdated by other "great" inventions but for the people in the story, it's their only connection to their humanity.
Theme: "A common thread or repeated idea that is incorporated throughout a literary work."
Prezi By: Zoe Letcher
Character & Dialogue
Literary Techniques
This story takes place where a nuclear winter has occurred. Matted grass and weed stalks of the prairie had grown through the narrow and deeply demolished remains of a road. Shallow and brittle ice was everywhere. There were little bits of an old oiled pavement in the road too, but most of it was frozen rigid mud. There were holes in the ground that looked like they could have been made by falling meteors, but they weren't. Along the road there were destroyed remnants of fences. The entire earth was dark and desolate.
The introduction of this short story starts by explaining the setting and surroundings. A nuclear winter has hit and everything is frozen and crisp. Roads and fences are demolished and there is little life to be seen.
Rising Action
In the rising action of the story, four men are introduced. They are all seated crossed legged around a fire. All they have is two old and dirty army blankets where the owner of the cell slept. There was a niche with a few tin utensils as well. The host was re-wrapping fine, leather-bound books. He worked slowly and then finally tied the bundle with a piece of grass-woven cord. The other three men watched.
As the old, wise man tied together the bundle of books he told the others “When I perceived what was happening, I told myself, ‘It is the end. I cannot take much; I will take these.’
“Perhaps I was impractical,” he continued. “But for myself, I do not regret, and what do we know of those who will come after us? We are the doddering remnant of a race of mechanical fools. I have saved what I love; the soul of what was good in us here; perhaps the new ones will make a strong enough beginning not to fall behind when they become clever.” (pg. 2). The books he had saved were Shakespere, the Bible, Moby Dick and Divine Comedy. The other men listened closely but the youngest man lay in the corner coughing. He was very sick.
Falling Action
The eldest man brought out the phonograph. The sick youngest man was very excited to hear the music. The four men discussed what music they wanted to hear and then agreed upon a Debussy nocturne. They all listened carefully. The sick man began moving quietly so that the others would not hear him and look at him, he let his head fall back in agony and clenched the fingers of one hand over his teeth. He sat that way while the others were silent, and until they began to breathe again normally. His drawn-up legs were trembling violently.
Once the music had stopped two of the men said thanks to the old wise man and then left the room. The old man put the records, phonograph and books into a hole in the earth and then covered it with a board and some dirt to keep it safe. He changed his blankets and his grass -stuffed pillow and added two more blocks of peat to the fire. The man crawled into bed and listened to the wind and at last, he prayed.
Character: " a person who is responsible for the thoughts and actions within a story, poem, or other literature."
Dialogue: "The conversation between characters in the story."
Character 1
Character 2
Character 3
Character 4
The first character introduced was explained to be the host. He was an older man with a long, matted beard and with grey hair that was nearly white. His eye brows and cheekbones appeared gnarled and his eyes and cheeks were sunken. He had big hands that were swollen and rough with frost and his voice was very deep. Later in the story this man is referred to as Doctor Jenkins.
This character is a round character in my opinion because he is fully described and expressed by the author and has a major role in the story.
There is not much said about this character but he is a middle aged man. He has large hands and says he wants to write but there is no paper. I can infer that perhaps this character was a writer.
I think this character is a flat character because he is not fully defined by the author but he is important for adding more motives to the story.
There is basically nothing described about this character except that he is a middle aged man and he enjoys the books and music.
In my opinion he is a flat character in the story because he's not fully described by the author but is useful for carrying out some narrative purpose.
This character was mostly very quiet. He sat in the shadow furthest from the fire, and sometimes his body jerked from the cold. He was a very young man but he was very sick and coughed often. Later in the story it explained that he was a musician and was very interested in the phonograph and records.
He is a round character in my opinion because he is an important character to the story and his personality, background and motives are fully addressed by the author.
Point of View
Comic Relief
Point of View: "An opinion, attitude, or judgment. The writer tells what happens without stating more than can be inferred from the story's action and dialogue."
The point of view at the beginning of the story moves from a general view of humankind. The author leaves it up to the reader to establish. As the story begins, the world is presented from the outside, almost as though through the lens of a camera.

Further into the story it becomes a third person point of view of Dr. Jenkins. Throughout most of the story you know what Dr. Jenkins is thinking and feeling.
Foreshadowing: "The act of providing vague advance indications; representing beforehand."
It says that there was a world war that was devastating and that foreshadows that the men will most likely be quite poor. The cough of the musician from the darkness foreshadows that he might be trying to steal the phonograph and then it foreshadows by the way the man loves his phonograph and books that he will go to all measures to protect it. Another time foreshadowing is shown is when Dr. Jenkins saw the four stars flying, and one became obscured, the author foreshadowed that one of the four people would do a dishonorable thing. The author specified that there were four stars , representing the four people.
Dr. Jenkins also would have inferred that it would be the musician that would steal the phonograph, and not any one of the other two men because he was the one who acted "unnatural" because he left abruptly and emotionally different.

Comic Relief: " an amusing scene, incident, or speech introduced into serious or tragic elements, as in a play, in order to provide temporary relief from tension, or to intensify the dramatic action."
A scene that I thought showed comic relief was this one:
At the first notes of the piano, the listeners were startled. They stared at each other. Even the musician lifted his head in amazement, but then quickly bowed it again, strainingly, as if he were suffering from a pain he might not be able to endure. They were all listening deeply, without movement. The wet, blue-green notes tinkled forth from the old machine, and were individual, delectable presences in the cell. The individual, delectable presences swept into a sudden tide of unbearably beautiful dissonance, and then continued fully the swelling and ebbing of that tide, the dissonant inpourings, and the resolutions, and the diminishments, and the little, quiet wavelets of interlude lapping between.
" (pg. 3)
These people are living in a dark and tragic world with very little. The music acted as an escape.
Conflict: " An inherent incompatibility between the objectives of two or more characters or forces."
The type of conflict in the story is Man vs. Himself, Man vs. Man and Man vs. Society.
The main conflict in the Portable Phonograph is that these men have pretty much nothing left to remind them of their humanity. The nuclear war that occurred in the story destroyed everything. Now they are getting greedy when it comes to the things they have left. It is the young man vs himself because Dr. Jenkins is battling with the part of him that wants to share his music, and another part of him that wants to hide it from the others. It is the young man vs Society because it is society that left the men without humanity in the first place.
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