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In consideration of this weeks discussion post in it’ relationship to, The Breathing Method, as a prime exemplification of a bookend structure, and it’s application to this weeks lecture, the first thing that immediately comes to mind is the lectures provided by fantasy author and professor of BYU Brandon Sanderson. In his discourse of a similar nature, he describes how the first stage of the three-act model for writing, or what we could describe as the introduction, exposition, inciting incident, or plot point one, is that, on the most rudimentary level, it is utilized by the writer to present what he calls a promise to their audience; that is to utilize various elements of fiction to set the foundation for the rest of the work to follow, and this is irrevocably the case Stephen King’s, The Breathing Method, and he does this in a variety of ways.
A quote from a favorite movie of mine comes to mind as I reflect on how to describe this aspect of the bookend structure from the blockbuster hit World War Z. In describing the origin point of the virus, the biologist to whom is studying it says with educational prowess that, ““Mother Nature is a serial killer. No ones better. More creative. Like all serial killers, she can’t help but the urge to get caught. What good are all those brilliant crimes if nobody takes the credit? So she leaves crumbs. Now, the hard part is, and why you spend decades in school, is seeing the crumbs for the clues they are. Sometimes the thing you thought to be the most brutal aspect of the virus, actually turns out to be the chink in its armor. She loves disguising her weaknesses as strengths
In likewise fashion, Stephen King leverages a number of clues or breadcrumbs if you will in order to deliver his promise in his introduction of the bookend structure. The ways that he does so are subtle, but at the same time they are undeniably there is you look, like a fly on the wall observer for them. We see this in a number of instances such as the law book he discovers pertaining to dismemberment. Following this line of thought, to quote H.G. Well’s War of the World’s, “they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures…” if examines the introduction the countless contextual clues or hints of foreshadowing are riddled throughout the first chapter. We, of course, see this in the case of such as, “His head! His head is still speaking in the earth! Or, the countless descriptions or times that David utilizes a taxi cap, and similarly, the repetition of, “It is the tale, not he who tells it, or even the fact that the bar or gentlemen’s club is described in such a way with countless books, some of which David had never heard of, and of men reading and telling story; all of which, especially in the fact that the conclusion mirrors the beginning, ultimately lead the second stage of the novella, which lends itself to Dr. Emlyn McCarron telling the gruesome and chilling tell of Sandra and her tragic pregnancy in which she was decapitated in a cab during childbirth in a horrible accident coincidentally enough in a cab, and that also included, in the most macabre Stephen King-like way, her remaining cognizant enough to carry out the birth of her child, and managing to utter her last words while decapitated. Thus, all of the crumbs or hits of foreshadowing come together full circle, providing a sense of continuity, and at the same time simultaneously, delivering on King’s promise to his reader. In this way, The Breathing Method is unquestionably a demonstration of the bookend structure.
But there are so many other elements at work in this specific piece of fiction, and in a way it expands, transcends or goes beyond what we would otherwise describe or associate with fiction of this time. In accordance with the various video lectures this week on the matter, and its association that we received on the issue, the master of horror does this in a variety of ways. An in-depth analysis of The Breathing Method makes this evident by breaking down the basic components of fiction, “viewed as plot-driven and missing exploration of character, focusing on the external events occurring at the level of plot while internal conflicts and motivations -what we might think of as the human element – go largely unexplored,” and when bearing this description in mind, to play the devil’s advocate, one could argue that this simply isn’t the case in The Breathing Method.
The first illustration of this is found in the way that, for the most part, The Breathing Method, isn’t entirely plot-driven or character driven for that matter. A further examination of the issue reveals that to a varying extent, this specific work seems more theme-driven, and arguably voice-driven. In exploring the plot, this really isn’t the element of fiction that pushes the story forward. There are marginal events, conflicts, and actual things occurring within the work, and those that exist, seem for the most part to be repetitive. A man, David, works with interesting individuals, to say the least, frequents a cab home, and visits a bar, or gentlemen’s club with his fellow colleagues who share stories with one another, and as in the ending being a mirror of the introduction, these events repeat themselves throughout the novella. This is also the case in terms of character or work being character driven. For the most part, there are a handful of characters interacting with each other, but they aren’t really doing anything asides from sharing ghastly and grizzly stories with each other.
Further examining this issue on a much more microscopic level, there is no question that true as this may be that King utilizes a great deal of character development to create for what one might consider being the human element. First and foremost, there is the very fact of the establishment of this gentlemen’s club at 249 (a number that coincidentally when added together breaks down to fifteen which could further be broken down to six, a cautionary number adding to the sense of foreshadowing), in and of itself. As dark as the stories that these men share with each other, in a way, it sort of acts as a therapeutic means for these coworkers to remove the heavy burden of the horrible things that they have seen in their lives, whether it is that of a man’s survival war story or anything to that likes; a very humane act. King is also able to do this in the way that he shows human compassion throughout the novella; the way David’s coworkers approach him to join the club, asking him to become part partner, the money they gave to the grieving widow, and the compassion that McCarron shows to a woman in her last moments. But he doesn’t stop there. Beyond this, the human condition is present in the small things; David lying to his wife about the most menial and trifle matters for God knows what reason, or in the act of random and spontaneous sex between husband and wife with vulgar dirty talk that is utilized between partners.
In addition, King creates for this in the uncanny differentiation or individualization between characters on a variety of different levels. For the most part, the story is narrated by David’s POV, which adds to the assertion that this is a type of voice-driven piece. As such, King brilliantly blends the lines between the external and internal continuum. The reader is aware of a great deal of the thought processes that David has. Through this lens, we see that he is a kind of intelligent, and introspective elderly man, who has a tendency to overanalyze everything, and that one might argue is encumbered by a sense of paranoia, and in these descriptions and in their flaws we see a very real part of the human condition. This is, of course, a stark juxtaposition to the likes of how McCarron presents himself and narrates his extremely visceral tale. This individualization of characters is also seen in other such variables as the way that Waterhouse composes in such a strict matter of fact sort of manner, yet at the same time, he has this sort of impulsive, spur of the moment, or spontaneous tendency to himself, as in the way he asks David to the bar, to catch a cab with him, and so on and so forth. We also see the exploration of what could be deemed the human element in the way that King oscillates between various levels of diction between characters. This, of course, is exemplified in the way his wife randomly says oink, or in the more vulgate vernacular utilized by the cab driver, which only adds to the long list of the many ways that King has asserted his mastery over language.
However, these examples are by no means the greatest demonstration of the human condition in The Breathing Method. Perhaps the greatest indication of this as found within in subtle contextual clues is an underlying element of the Jungian collective unconscious. As David navigates his way through this fictional world and stumbles across these instances of foreshadowing, it is almost as if an unconscious level, he and his colleagues are aware of what is to come, or are preparing themselves for as much, and that in a way their minds are intuitively picking up on these specific things, which is an argument that is further bolstered in the comment that is made regarding prophet.
As far as the matter of this being a theme-driven piece of fiction, this is evident in the bar or gentlemen’s club at 249 in and of itself, in this conceptualization of a kind of story within a story. It is often the case in books, movies, and other forms of entertainment that the idea starts with a sort of what if scenario, such as what if toys were alive, and the product of that is Toy Story, and that certainly seems the case here as well. Everything from the great number of books at the bar, all the contextual clues leading up to the second stage of the bookend structure in The Breathing Method story, and the sort of war stories that each accumulates over the course of our lives.