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Amy Hempel’s writing can be confusing at time and requires close reading. Through any possible confusion the aspect of the stories that stands out and guides the reader through the story is the narrator. This story is almost necessarily written in first person. The view of the narrator, the voice and the characteristics of the narrator are more easily seen in first person and are essential in this story for getting through it.

The character is laid out pretty early on for the reader. The first line of the story is “after the dog’s cremation I lay in my husband’s bed.” This is immediately telling for the reader. One, the character is focused on the cremation of an animal, and two, she’s lying in her “husband’s bed” instead of “their bed” or “her bed” which is odd because a lot of married couples share a bed. She is also watching the academy awards for dogs, not an average pastime either, so immediately thrown into this story, the reader has a vague idea about who this narrator is (or at least a few ways in which she differs from the average human being). We also learn valuable information about Flea, her husband, and that he is gone, but does not explain why it’s his bed instead of theirs or hers. It’s an intriguing first paragraph that sets up a lot for the story, including the strangeness of it all, some plot points, and the narrator as a person.

The way the story is written reflects thoughts and shows readers a deeper view into the narrator’s mind because we are basically reading what she is thinking. The way the story rambles and jumps, random sentences enter her mind, then it breaks and moves onto something else, is a fairly accurate representation of the mind at work. This is well-done throughout the story, and though it can make for a confusing read, the voice of the narrator is something the reader can cling to and remain grounded.

Random details throughout the story about the narrator are good at providing the reader with more of an idea on who she is. For example: “I thought a ham was an animal” and “he’s a real teenager of a dog… he’d have pimples” and “In the morning is when I pray” these little details about her that are dropped so casually into the story are very telling of her character, whether it be her sense of humor, her upbringing, her knowledge, her religious orientation, all of these things add together to make a realistic human being who is letting us into her thoughts, and they are necessary for us to care about her thoughts because she feels real to us.

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