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All About Suicide
Transcript of All About Suicide
by Luisa Valenzuela
Point of View
Style, Tone, Language
Symbol, Allegory, and Myth
Setting - Argentina, 1960's, political and social unrest
Argentine Revolution was the name given by its leaders to a military coup d'état which overthrew the government of Argentina in June 1966 and begun a period of military dictatorship by a junta from then until 1973. This period saw repression
Dictator General Juan Carlos Onganía's ended university autonomy. Ongania's ordered the July 1966 La Noche de los Bastones Largos ("The Night of the Long Truncheons"). Police invaded the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires. They beat up and arrested students and professors. The university repression led to the exile of 301 university professors.
Onganía also ordered repression on all forms of "immoralism", proscribing miniskirts, long hair for young men, and all avant-garde artistic movements.
Did Ishmael kill himself? What details of the story make you think he did or didn't?
Did Ishmael kill the minister? What details of the story make you think he did or didn't?
Are there other possibilities?
How does the use of pronouns ("he," "him," "his") contribute to the ambiguity of the story?
If Ishmael just killed the minister, why is the story called "All About Suicide"?
Why doesn't Valenzuela tell the story in chronological order?
Do you think Valenzuela is deliberately confusing the reader? What point might she be making about the political situation in her country by doing that?
Character - How do we know about a character?
What he/she says
What he/she does
What he/she thinks
What other characters say about him/her
What the author says about him/her
So, what do we know about Ismael and the minister?
Theme - A story may have one theme; more often, it has several, as you can see from Valenzuela's story.
Consider the setting in this story when exploring the theme: maybe the story is asking you to think about what it's like to live in a country where you can't speak freely and where it's easy for the government to kill. How might that affect a person's character? His way of handling problems? Valenzuela doesn't tell her story straightforwardly, in the same way that people may not be able to speak straightforwardly in this country. So the truth gets confused, and you never really know what it is--just as someone living in this country would have to deal with never knowing the real truth.
Point of View
third-person objective - narrator does not reveal any character’s thoughts or feelings
third-person limited - narrator reveals the thoughts and feelings of one character through explicit narration
third-person omniscient - narrator is all knowing
Style, Tone, and Language - The ambiguous use of pronouns in Luisa Valenzuela’s short story “All About Suicide” leads the reader to ponder the dilemma of whether or not violence solves conflict when authority is despotic. There are two characters in this story: Ishmael and the minister. However, Valenzuela purposely uses “he” and “his” to confuse the reader.
Who acts? For example, the line “[t]he act of putting it to his temple and pulling the trigger…” creates confusion as to whether or not Ishmael killed himself, or if Ishmael put the gun to the minister’s head (Valenzuela 7).
This misguidance and ambiguity parallels political and moral confusion. Moral lines of right and wrong can blur. Is the person really acting for the greater good or has that person for personal benefit?
The ambiguity of pronouns in this piece leaves the reader wondering and pondering greater moral issues rather than finding actual answers. Valenzuela asks us to move beyond the "who did what?" question to consider a bigger question. The author creates a vehicle from which anyone in any situation can make hard decisions about hard issues for themselves.
Plot - nonlinear; Is there a climax or epiphany?
Symbol - gun, murder
When you analyze a piece of literature, you should be able to go beyond the story, namely structure, narrative perspective, stylistic devices, information gap, etc. in order to come up with a sound analysis of the subject matter of the lesson. Do not be content with a superficial, literal reading. The author has a purpose in writing; ask what it is and why you should care.