Textverständnis und Textanalyse: Fiktionaler Text "Talk, Talk" by T.C. Boyle
Answer the following questions using your own words as far as is appropriate. Quote correctly.
- Retrace the events of that day and identify the feelings they trigger in Dana. (20)
- Examine the strategies Dana has developed to deal with the difficulties that she encounters as a deaf person. (10)
- Analyse the narrative perspective. How does it contribute to the reader’s perception of the patrolman’s character and what effect is created by it? (20)
Dana has an appointment at the dentist’s and fears she might be late. She is in a hurry and – while driving her car – feels “stressed, stressed out” (l.1). She feels relieved (“momentarily blessed”, l.2) that there is no one at the stop sign urging her to stop and runs the sign, which saves her precious time.
Only when she passes the sign does she notice the police car parked nearby. When the police officer pulls her over a few moments later, she is angry with herself for not having stopped. Hoping not to lose precious time, she wants to hand the officer her documents right away, holding “them out to him in offering, in supplication” (ll.13/14). This suggests that Dana is quite nervous about the consequences her behaviour might have and worried about the delay that might be caused.
Instead of taking the documents right away, the officer asks her whether she knows which rule she has broken. Dana defends herself saying that she did slow down.
The patrolman then asks her for her papers, takes the documents, returns to his car and leaves Dana waiting. Dana is quite by annoyed (“standard check”, “standard ticket”, “standard stop sign”, ll.32-34) and, during his absence, she is worrying about the costs and her insurance and gets nervous when she realizes that she is going to be late for both the appointment and the class she has to teach afterwards (cf. ll.35-41).
As the minutes pass, Dana grows increasingly impatient and wonders what is taking the patrolman so long (cf. ll.43-45). When he finally re-emerges and walks back to her car, she can tell from his posture that something is wrong, which adds to her nervousness (cf. ll.53-57).
Turning to face the officer, Dana is shocked as he is pointing a gun at her, shouting furiously. Her feelings of shock and confusion are intensified as she does not understand immediately what the officer is shouting (cf. ll62/63).
As a deaf person Dana has developed certain strategies to cope with the difficulties she has to face in her everyday life.
First of all, Dana tries to anticipate expectations and requests in different situations. She already has the necessary documents at hand before the police officer can even ask for them (cf. l.13). She seems to be prepared, knowing what will be demanded of her in this situation – although in this special situation, she is wrong. In general, this suggests that she can handle situations without necessarily having others talk to her.
Likewise, she tries to make sense of situations in which she does not grasp what was said by intelligent guessing, speculating and pragmatic thinking: “He backed away from the car and said something further – probably that he was going back to his own vehicle […].” (ll.30-34)
When addressed by others, Dana has learned to read their lips. However, it is quite obvious that it takes a lot of effort to read others correctly. When addressed by the police officer after being pulled over, it takes some time for her to understand what he exactly wants (cf. ll.14-18). Likewise, at the end of the excerpt, the officer has to repeat himself in order to get his message across to her (cf. ll.61-64). But there are also situations where Dana seems to understand at once what is asked of her: “He said something then, and this time she read him correctly” (l.29).
Dana also pays a lot of attention to body language and tries to get clues from other people’s behaviour, gestures and facial expression (cf. ll.53-57).
Finally, Dana is aware of the fact that other people react awkwardly to the way she speaks, but she has learned not to take these reactions too seriously: “She saw his face change when she spoke, but she was used to that.” (ll.27/28)
Thanks to these strategies, Dana manages to cope with the difficulties she has to face as a deaf person.
The story is told by a third-person narrator with a limited point of view. The reader witnesses the events through Dana’s eyes and learns about her thoughts and feelings through reported thought (e.g. ll.48-50) or interior monologue (e.g. ll.15-18).
As the reader does not get any insight into the officer’s perspective, he has to draw conclusions from Dana’s subjective descriptions. His perception of the officer is thus strongly influenced by Dana’s point of view.
Apart from not being very attractive (“His eyes were too big for his head and they bulged out like a Boston terrier’s. [...] the eyes – liquid and weepy [...]”, ll.22-24), the patrolman appears childish, an authority figure playing with the power he embodies: “a big-headed child all dressed spick-and-span in his uniform and playing at authority” (ll.26/27).
The rather negative impression that the reader gets from this unfavourable description is further intensified as the story unfolds. The officer leaves Dana waiting in her car while he is probably checking her documents. This makes Dana wonder whether he “[is] a slow learner, dyslexic, the sort of person who would have trouble recollecting the particular statute of the motor vehicle code [...]” (ll.48-50). In this passage, Dana clearly questions the officer’s intellectual abilities. He does not seem to be very intelligent, but rather simple and slow. The fact that he leaves Dana waiting without her knowing why adds to the negative impression the reader already has.
His behaviour at the end of the excerpt adds to this picture: Dana finds herself helplessly at the mercy of the patrolman who is out of control. He is pointing a gun at her and shouting at her, “barking, his face discomposed, furious” (l.62), which makes him appear rude, frightening and completely unpredictable. Neither Dana nor the reader understand what is going on and what caused this threatening outburst.
By choosing a limited point of view, the author manages to create suspense. The reader does not know more than Dana and is as surprised by the turn of the events as is Dana herself.
To conclude, the narrative perspective creates an effect of immediacy: the reader feels directly involved, sympathizes and identifies with Dana. He is strongly influenced by Dana’s impressions, thoughts and her description of the police officer, whom he perceives as rude, unsympathetic, pseudo-authoritarian and unpredictable.
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