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Breaking Point

Take the leaves from the street,
where she stood next to me,
and scatter them under my bed.
Take her bracelets and her rings,
and her other precious things
and bury them in the place that we met. 

-The Lesser Birds of Paradise, “Take The Leaves”

Bergman’s story “Night Hunting” focuses on the feeling of anxious loss.  I really enjoyed this story because it evoked a different emotion from what I was originally expecting to feel.  The story opens up with talk of a holiday party, which normally is associated with happy memories of family.  This is quickly changed when it is learned that her mother is sick.  The information about her mom is presented in a matter-of-fact tone, as if the narrator had to repeat it multiple times and now disassociates the words from the severity of their meaning.  It is the first place that I noticed Hannah’s suppression of emotions.  Her discussion about everyone seems very emotionless and factual; however, her thoughts don’t do as well of a job hiding her sadness about her mother’s nearing passing.  Every description that she makes and every character that she introduces somehow gets tied back to her mother or to death.  Because it is constantly brought up, you can tell that it is bothering her more than her specific words are leading on.  The first person narrator is important to a story like this one because there isn’t really a way to describe this inner conflict from an outsiders perspective. She doesn’t slip up from this façade outside of her stream of consciousness.

The introduction of Erik was extremely interesting to me as well.  Her feelings towards Erik display three inner battles that she’s dealing with.  The first one is obvious; she is once again suppressing her feelings towards him.  She doesn’t encourage his advances because she knows that it bothers her mother; however, she wants to.  By seeing how those feelings are suppressed, the reader can more easily identify the suppressed feelings about her mother as well.  On top of that, she is repeatedly sacrificing her own desires to please her mother.  If her mother wasn’t on her deathbed, it’s obvious that she would pursue Erik.  This is also seen when she talks about living in Moab.  She willingly makes these sacrifices, but the constant references to them shows that she struggles internally with them.

Hannah’s relationship with the outdoors seems like her method of release.  It is something that she can enjoy without feeling guilty about upsetting her mother.  I really liked the setting of these two stories because I’ve been to both places so I was able to create a strong visual for myself.  They also show her suppression of feelings because of their geographical differences. Hannah prefers life in Utah, however she doesn’t outwardly express missing it.   Another important element in this story is the dogs.  I love the references in this story because they remind me of home (My high school mascot is a coyote, pictured above). In the story, coyotes attack two dogs and her mother. The connection she feels to these dogs and the sadness that is felt over their attacks is similar to the feelings about her mother’s impending death.  What I found interesting was that she identified more with the coyotes throughout the whole story.

The end of the story was so incredibly well done. I think it was probably my favorite ending out of all the stories that we’ve read.  She is no longer able to suppress her emotions, and when they are finally released it is in a spurt of anger.  She attempts to attack the coyote, but deeply regrets it immediately afterwards.  This shows the breakdown of the front that she is putting onto the world. She is unable to be emotionless enough to be a killer.  When she recognizes that the coyote is being brave and attempting to feed her cubs, she can no longer act emotionless. The similarity between the coyote and her mother is too obvious.  This feeling is relatable, especially with me personally.  Hannah is the kind of person that takes on everyone’s burdens and attempts to handle them by herself.  I’m that role with my family and friends, and if another reader isn’t in that role, they can probably easily identify who within their family or friend group is.  It’s universally relatable because everyone takes on that role with someone at some point in their life.  What struck me the hardest was her emotional breakdown. No one can fix everyone’s problems on their own and when a person finally does break, they just want someone to take care of them for a bit.  When she returns to her house and goes to her mother’s room, she allows her mother to take on the role of problem fixer and caregiver. Her mother is able to be just that for a moment: a mom comforting her upset child. This moment  left me with a bittersweet feeling.  I think it’s the first moment that feels natural for both of them, and that’s what makes it the most powerful moment of the story.

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