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Helen on 86th Street

Our group analysis on the short story "Helen On Eighty-Sixth Street" by Wendi Kaufman.

Sa Pi

on 6 October 2014

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Transcript of Helen on 86th Street

Plot Analysis
The story starts off with Vita stating her hatred for Helen.
"I hate Helen"(Kaufman 106 )
Just as with any story, Helen on Eighty-sixth Street has a theme. The main point of this story regards independence and believing in yourself. Vita never gave up on her dream of began Helen of Troy, despite the fact that everybody else did not think that she could. With a twist of fate, Vita did become Helen. Also, at the end of the story, Helen becomes more independent. She says," For a second, I can hear the beating of a swan's wings, and then nothing at all"(Kaufman 112). The swan symbolizes her father flying away, and no longer being a very large part of her life. She realizes she doesn't need her dad, and that he won't come back. She learns how to be independent, and she sees that she can do amazing things by herself, like performing the lead role in a play.
Character analysis
Helen On Eighty-Sixth Street

By Abrianna H., Elexis R., Jordan H., And Sarah P.
In Helen on Eighty-Sixth Street, Vita, the main character, was distraught at the fact that she lost the role of Helen of Troy in the school play to Helen. She began thinking up ways to get the part herself. She decided to perform a sacrifice in order to get the part. Vita winds up getting the part, since Helen gets sick. During all this, Vita is dealing with the fact that her father left several years ago. Vita hoped that by getting the part of Helen, her father would come to the play. However, Vita's dad never showed up, but she did an amazing job at the play. Vita realizes that she doesn't need her father in her life anymore, since she can do great things by herself. One of the main lines in the story is," You're too smart to be ruled by your heart" (Kaufman 109). This refers to how Vita realizes that she doesn't need her dad, and should use her brain over her heart sometimes and move on.
Rising Action
There are many events that happened to lead to the climax. Most of them revolved around Vita getting good luck. She made a very complex and well thought out sacrifice.
"No more burnt offerings when I'm not home" (Kaufman 111 )
Vita is an 11 year old girl that will go to the highest extent to get what she wants. She makes a burnt offering to Athena so that she could get the part of Helen, for her father to come back, and for Old Farfel to leave. She also is highly jealous, as in the first line she says, "I hate Helen. That's all I can say. I hate her"(Kaufman 106). Helen McGuire is playing Helen, so Mr. Dodd says, because, out of the entire sixth grade, she most embodies Helen of Troy."(Kaufman 106) It shows how fast she turns to hate the girl instead of even landing a part in the play. Though near the end of the story she says, "It's all my fault. Helen McGuire got chicken pox. Bad. I know my burnings did this." It shows how bad she feels about her actions becomes less selfish.

This story takes place in New York City, since Vita's mom says, "The rent's stabilized" (Kaufman 107). This refers to the New York City system of rent regulation. Also, Vita's mother studies at Columbia University, which is in New York. The story takes place in modern times, but there are no other hints toward anything other than time or place. The time period seems to be more on a modern day outlook of things. We don't know much more than that, since the story doesn't give out the details. The area seems to be a safe neighborhood, for the most part, but it is New York City, after all. Vita seems to be much more mature than normal 6th graders, probably as a result of growing up in a big city. The mood is slightly somber and depressed, possibly as a result of the city atmosphere. Some cities are portrayed as an environment where nobody cares and the world is cruel, and that is how New York City is shown as in this story. It makes the characters seem gloomy.

The climax is when Helen gets sick with the chicken pox. It is when Vita finally gets the part she deserves.
"I know my burning ceremony did this" (Kaufman 111 ) Although she feels bad after. Part of her is glad because it actually works.
Falling Action-
When Vita walks across the stage to deliver her final address. Instead of saying her rehearsed line and doing her rehearsed actions, she simply says, "And to say goodbye" (Kaufman 112 ). We can infer that this line is aimed at her dad. Who we learned had abandoned her three years ago.
A literary allusion is a reference to something else. It can also be a statement with a bigger meaning behind it. Helen on Eighty-Sixth Street has many allusions, mostly those referring to poetry and Greek mythology. Vita's cat is named Marlowe, referring to the English dramatist Christopher Marlowe. Vita's mother also quotes Marlowe. When Vita tries out for the part of Helen of Troy, Mr. Dodd calls her a Sarah Heartburn, referring to Sarah Bernhardt, a French actress known to be emotional in acting. Vita's parakeets are name John and John Keats, referring to the English Poet John Keats. Vita's mother says that Vita's father is living on an island with lotus eaters, referring to people in the Odyssey who forgot their homes an families forever after eating the lotus tree fruit. Old Farfel says to Vita," Well, the play's the thing. We're all just players strutting and fretting our hour on the stage"(Kaufman 108). This refers to lines from Shakespeare's plays Hamlet and Macbeth. Vita's dog was named Argus, just like Odysseus's old dog. Vita's mom says," Beauty is truth, truth beauty-that is all ye need to know" (Kaufman 109). This refers to the last two lines of Keats's poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn".
no. -_-
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