“Father Returns from the Mountain,” by Luis Alberto Urrea

12 Feb

Here we have a lyrical, genre-blending story/essay/prose poem. A lot going on here, formally. And underneath it all rests an ancient story about a son losing his father. Consider the questions below.

Having just read Rick Moody’s “Boys,” we can’t help but see some similarities, as well as important differences. Please compare these two stories.

Surely we have a conflict here. Father has died, and the son is shocked, wounded, and must deal with the death, both physically, intellectually, and spiritually. But is there a crisis, or climax? If so, identify it.

How does the metaphor of truth being a broken mirror work for this story? What is its message?

In your opinion, did the writer get away with turning his father into a ghost? What’s your criteria for making this judgement.

Is this more a story, poem, or essay? Surely it blends all three, but does one genre carry most of the weight?

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135 Responses to ““Father Returns from the Mountain,” by Luis Alberto Urrea”

  1. Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Hi everybody. I hope you’ll take a look at Monday’s discussion thread and note my comments. I wish I could have been there live, and–I hate to say–I wish I could be there live today. I have a lunch meeting from noon to three, so again I’ll come in after the fact and add my two cents. In the meantime, I trust you to carry on a great conversation, just as you did last time. Onward and upward. K

  2. Caitlin Lawler February 12, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    I think the fragmented form of the story worked very well for the content it was dealing with: coping with the unexpected death of a loved one. It captures the scrabbling feeling of receiving news of the accident, the death, making preparations for the wake & funeral and then carrying them out. Looking back on that time, events wouldn’t seem to progress in a logical, linear order but as a jumbled, fractured mess.

    This might get at the “truth is a broken mirror” question. In order to faithfully capture a complex event such as the father’s unexpected death and the son’s reaction to it, the truth has to be approached from many different angles (the accident itself, the car in a junkyard years later, the father’s thoughts after the accident, the son’s thoughts). The truth of the event isn’t just one thing; it has many facets that can’t be obtained through a single linear perspective.

    • Carrie February 12, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

      I agree. I found the fragmented style to reflect how unexpected and sudden death affects someone. It is very reflective of the grieving process and dealing with emotions. If it had been told very straightforward and linear we would not feel as much of the son’s inner turmoil and grief.

    • Laura Seeber February 12, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      I agree Caitlin, I preferred this story to Monday’s piece because in situations much like these the story demonstrates how life is still moving forward, however the fragmented pieces or as I saw them “snapshots” seemed to really capture the feel of the loss of someone when you are not ready for it to happen.

      The “truth is a broken mirror” I see is the in the attention to detail in the piece and the descriptions. They all feel real like we are feeling the loss right along with the narrator and what he perceives.

      • tylerspellious February 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

        “I preferred this story to Monday’s piece because in situations much like these the story demonstrates how life is still moving forward, however the fragmented pieces or as I saw them “snapshots” seemed to really capture the feel of the loss of someone when you are not ready for it to happen.”

        That’s interesting, because I saw the fact of the repetition such as “the car is red” and seeing his dad again as being unable to move forward. Whereas the “Boys” story Monday had memories of each other, suggesting the past, the ideas of past, present and future are so blurred by fragmentation in this story that it’s hard to tell what is the present.

      • Maggie February 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

        I agree, it seems like the shape of this story more accurately connects to what is going on within the story than Mondays did. Life doesn’t feel like a list to me, but a tragedy can often make you feel like time is fractured.

        • SarahStory February 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

          Interesting. Though this story is wonderful, I really liked Monday’s reading because to me life feels like a list, one event after another, moving and progressing at a steady rate. The difference between Monday’s and today’s is the length of time that the stories cover. Monday’s covered years of mostly mundane events and changes while this piece is about a traumatic event that takes place in a shorter amount of time.

          • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

            I was moved by both stories to a certain extent, but the death of the sister in Moody’s story hit me harder than the death of the father in this one. Rule of thumb, two deaths are better than one. (Kidding.)

    • RukiG February 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      I’m going to have to agree more with Tyler about this one. While I’d say that this story did do a good job of capturing the confusedness and fragmentation of grief, I think “Boys” also did a good job of capturing a wider range of time.
      It’s interesting, Caitlin, that you talk of a “linear perspective” because we all seemed pretty confused about some parts of the timeline in “Boys.” I wouldn’t really call it linear.

  3. tylerspellious February 12, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    “In your opinion, did the writer get away with turning his father into a ghost? What’s your criteria for making this judgement.”

    It was my opinion that the boy turning his father into a ghost only worked because of how broken he himself was, and because the father seemed so distressed about it at first. If the father had just shown up and given a life lesson, only to leave, I would have been pissed at the cliche feel of it. At the same time, I personally didn’t like he became a ghost. Not really sure why. Then again, I didn’t like the fragmentation style too much either. Too poetry for my taste.

    • Maggie February 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

      I agree Tyler, for some reason the fact that he turned into a ghost actually bothered me. Maybe it was the fact that the rest of the story felt so real, the emotions so intense, that when he became a ghost it seemed like an attempt to fix all the emotional distress created in the story, like tying up loose ends. I guess it just felt a little manufactured and in contrast with the reality of the story. Another thing that I wasn’t sure saved it or annoyed me even more was the conversation that they ended up having while he was ghosting it up. It tried to be real-with the Dad telling him to stop crying like a girl etc. but then saying that he would never be without him. On one hand I just couldn’t believe that a Dad would say that to his son after he was dead but then again I know a lot of relationships are like that. Gah, I don’t know if that made the ghost thing less problematic, or just even less believable.

      • Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

        Maggie and Tyler: if this helps either of you at all, I don’t think the father actually turned into a ghost! I looked at it as the narrator working through his intense grief and lack of closure in a dream, or as if he were writing out what could have happened if he had a last chance to talk to his father “on the other” side. Perhaps that’s wrong, but that’s how I read it, at least!

        • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

          Seemed a little bit of an easy way out of the problem of the story on the one hand. On the other, Latin American literature has a long history of ghosts showing up in otherwise realistic stories. Part of the cultural interest in death and the dead that Ruki wrote about below. (I’m reading out of order.)

  4. Carrie February 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    I think the author having the father come back as a ghost was well done and did not take away from the story. For one, there are are small things that prepare the reader for this. the children say he will come back as a zombie. The son mentions the “sealing glass” that he wants to break and pull his father away from (reflective of his wish to have saved his father from the car crash) and then it is mentioned that concrete is spread over the box. Since these barriers are being put between them I was not surprised as a reader to see them overcome as father and son meet again.

    I also think that the father returning as a ghost is the only for the son to deal with his grief. We see him talking to his father at the wake and this is a precursor to his father’s visual appearance as a ghost.

    • tylerspellious February 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

      I’m gonna be that guy. I’m gonna do it. Don’t hate me.

      I think it was weird. People get over death without seeing their loved ones as ghosts. It seems natural to want to save the loved one from whatever fate they had, but seeing them in a weird sort of vision thing is grounds for insanity. You’d probably say, “You are insane when loved ones die.” But the way the story fragmented made the character seem way more insane then just seeing his dead dad. Of course, I see the point, getting over grief, but the difference between sanity and insanity is knowing one is real and the other isn’t.

      • Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

        I feel that the father coming back as a ghost was not necessarily the only way to represent the main character’s grief and coping. I wasn’t surprised by it, but I can see how the ghost could be considered to be too convenient of a way to show the character’s grief and coping.

    • Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

      I totally agree with you, Carrie. It felt strange in the sense that we had entered the supernatural, but not unnatural as a technique to use in this story. I also think that there is some comparison made between mirrors and the father’s ghost…the ghost of his father is not his father, but rather a mirror for his grief. That’s my take on it, anyway!

      • Laura Seeber February 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

        Literally Alli and Carrie just said what I wanted to say. I feel the same. I wasn’t jarred in the reading of it because the technique of using the supernatural did not make me question if it was real or not. I went with it because I wanted the narrator to be able to see his father again, but more so for him to really bring peace to himself.

      • tylerspellious February 12, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

        If the father is simply a mirror of his grief, I find it interesting that the son has to convince the father he is dead, just like he has to do himself. You’d think he’d at least make his father aware of his own death so they could just past that awkward part and get onto the emotions.
        Also, if he’s a mirror of his grief, why does the father say “Grandpa is proud of you”, like the son is just hoping Grandpa is proud? I mean, these are his own thoughts, so how does he know Grandpa is proud?

        • RukiG February 12, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

          This might be pushing too hard, but the way I’d explain this is that the son is kind of pushing his father away (“I want closure, he’s dead”) and not wanting his father to be dead at the same time. Hence the fact that he has to convince the father.
          For the “Grandpa is proud” bit, I think that’s just more projection. Same reason the father says “Thank you. I didn’t want to be on display” when the son tells him he closed the coffin. The son doesn’t technically KNOW that that’s what his father would have wanted.

    • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

      I agree, Carrie. I wasn’t surprised by the ghostly father either.

    • Caitlin Lawler February 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

      I like the details you point out that make the ghost seem to fit into the story more naturally. I thought the ghost worked too, I didn’t think it was too far-fetched I I was reading. It was a little cliche. The dialogue of “I love you” and “Did you see God?” for example, but I think it shows how much a bereaved person really wants to ask his father if he was in pain, where he is now, to tell his son it’s OK to go on with his life.

    • jperpich10 February 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

      I think seeing and conversing with his father after-death melded really well with the story as a whole. In my initial reading of the story, I didn’t grasp the clues that you mention but going back it makes perfect sense and flows very naturally. I also liked seeing how the son dealt with his grief in losing his father, and agree that seeing his father’s return as a spirit was a way to deal with that mourning.

  5. Nate Mittelbrun February 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    This piece carries more weight as a story. You could argue that it may carry more weight as a poem, however an essay seems unlikely because the form is to non-linear and somewhat confusing to be an essay. This has the rhythm of a poem in many sections, and the sentences almost always have a short melodic tone, but some sections can get quite a bit prose-y, so much so that it doesn’t feel like a prose poem. The non-linear structure lends itself to the story format quite well. This piece relies on revealing bits of information in a very particular and deliberate manner, which strikes me as more similar to a story since most authors meticulously map out the structure of their story in order to reveal information in the time and manner they choose.

    • alexandrapalmisano11 February 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

      I got the feeling that it was more of a poem. There was a lot of repetition and I took the “/” as line breaks. A lot of the description, fragments and repetition added to the poetic feel. There also seems like there are a lot of messages that are under the surface that could be up for interpretation, this reminded me more of a poetic style.

      • SarahStory February 12, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

        If the slashes had been actual line breaks I would have considered this piece to be a poem due to the form/shape alone. The poetic nature of the piece lends itself to almost being a poem, but not quite. Instead I took the slashes as a time jump as part of a prose story.

  6. jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    I think that the intrinsic rhythm of the piece, the repetition of lines like, “The car is red,” as well as other lines, and the line breaks throughout the entirety of the story really made me believe that the genre carrying the most weight was poetry.

    • Carrie February 12, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      I must admit I didn’t even notice the slashes for line breaks while I was reading it the first time. I’m surprised at how easily I accepted the sudden changes of scenes now as I look back at those spots.

      • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

        It’s really interesting though, because the breaks also deal with the shift in time and perspective. Did you see that too? Or did I make that up? haha

    • Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      I agree. There is a lot of the feel of poetry in this piece, I noted the slashes for line breaks immediately while reading and tried to see if it came across as poetry in those places. The author seems to use them more as markers of a change in thought or subject. As a reader, they helped me follow the staggered and somewhat jumpy thought process of the main character.

      • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

        I thought the slash lines were a little gimmicky. The story could have worked without them, and I thought they were a way to signal a little too loudly “this is literature!” It would have been brave of him to publish it as an essay, since there’s a ghost in it.

        • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

          Otherwise, the piece is called a “hybrid.” I’ve heard that term before describing cross-genre work.

  7. Carrie February 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    A main similarity I found between this story and Monday’s was the repetition of a sentence or idea. The one that stood out to me was “the car is red”. This sentence or some reference to the car being red is made throughout the story and I feel that it anchors the fragmented style around this fact. The fact that the car is red brings to mind instantly the accident and the father’s death, which is the center of the story.

    • Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

      That’s exactly what I was going to say! (Before I refreshed the page haha) I thought the repetition was like Moody’s piece in that sense. As far as differences go, though, I’d say that the intense, laser-like attention to detail is different from Moody’s more generalized look at the two boys.

      • tylerspellious February 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

        I agree with your point about the attention. It’s interesting how Monday’s story focused on the actions of the boys, whereas this story focused all on the mental. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like this story to much. Nothing was really happening, it was mostly mental stuff.

        • Laura Seeber February 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

          I liked the attention personally, however that is a personal preference. The details made me really feel like I was there with the narrator. The emotions of the piece were intense and I prefer that to action in most instances. I really liked this story for some reason. Anyone else feel this way? I want to read other pieces by the author now!

          • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

            I really enjoyed it as well, Laura!

          • Carrie February 12, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

            I agree. The focus on one character and their thoughts and emotions made it easier for me as reader to become involved in the story as compared to a list of actions. Interestingly, I don’t think we get any names in either stories for the characters.

      • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

        Good eye.

    • jperpich10 February 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      In comparing the shape of the two stories, I felt that the repetition of phrase was perhaps more successful in today’s piece. The image of the red car really drove the story for me, and as opposed to the list shape story we read yesterday, I thought this piece flowed more smoothly.

      • Nate Mittelbrun February 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

        I agree that the repetition was more successful in this story, however this piece didn’t nearly flow as smoothly for me. I enjoyed that it bounced around a lot, and that made discerning the timeline of events fun, but I found myself a little lost at times. Where as in Moody’s story I could easily see the events happening and transitioning from one to the other chronologically. I prefer non-linear structures, but sometimes they are a bit harder to follow, and I felt that was the case with this one, which somewhat takes away from the flow of the piece in my opinion.

        • jperpich10 February 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

          I think I can see where your coming from. There were times during this piece where I had to stop and retrace my steps in order to figure out what was going on. This story did jump around more, while yesterday’s story was just one stream through the whole piece, without any breaks or disruptions.

        • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

          Less rhythm, more vivid detail. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Nice point.

  8. jperpich10 February 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    I thought the truth metaphor was very unique. In the case of a broken mirror, we find truth reflected in what we are able to see. In my opinion, I took this to mean truth itself is fragmented, up to interpretation depending on what angle/perspective you are looking at a situation/thing from.

  9. Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    The metaphor of truth being a broken mirror really works for this story in my opinion. This statement is continued in the story with: “There are many reflective surfaces, and we observe the ones we choose. We see what we can” (105). I think that the narrator of this story is showing all of his thoughts and how they are like a broken mirror. It works well for this story because the reader gets to see how the narrator deals with the situation, going through feelings of deep grief and upset and moving to a place emotionally where is he more stable and at peace with what has happened, even though it is hard for him. I see this character change especially when he says to the ghost of his father, “…go away. You’re dead…You can’t stay here. You’re dead!” (109).

    • Caitlin Lawler February 12, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

      One thing that I thought was interesting about the narration is how it is told in the first person from the son’s perspective, but also gives a very intimate account of the father’s experience during and after the accident.

      I’m not sure whether the scenes with the father are what the son imagines the father felt, or what he actually felt. Maybe it doesn’t matter that much, but I thought the perspective change was an interesting formal element, especially since the narrator says “I think of my father being hurt… A tiny agony of tears pinches the corners of my eyes”

  10. Nate Mittelbrun February 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    “In your opinion, did the writer get away with turning his father into a ghost? What’s your criteria for making this judgement.”

    I didn’t quite read it as his father becoming a ghost. As I was reading I felt that he was imagining his father saying and doing these things because he was having a hard time dealing with his father’s passing. Since he couldn’t possibly have any more time with his father he ended up constructing a way to have the moments he wished he could have had. I think he manifests this vision of his father to get the closure he needs, and in that respect I think that it works. However, if I had read the story as his father actually coming back as a ghost I probably would have taken issue with that plot point.

    • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

      I guess the answer to this question is dependent upon what your idea of a ghost is. A vision or manifestation of one’s desire can be construed as a ghost to some. I don’t necessarily think you are meant to see the father as a ghost with unfinished business or is there to haunt or whatever, but a ghost whose son has envisioned so that he can create some sort of resolution.

    • Maggie February 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      I TOTALLY agree! I think the read of him being constructed by the son makes way more sense than him actually being a ghost. Not to mention the author talks about how important the dead are to their culture, and talking to those who have passed on is a very normal and natural thing that many people do.

    • RukiG February 12, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

      Oh good, I’m not the only one who didn’t actually think his father had become a ghost. I read it like you, that he was simply imagining these situations with his father, “constructing” them as you said.
      However, I don’t think I’d take issue with his father being an actual ghost. It didn’t really feel awkward or forced.

      • alexandrapalmisano11 February 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

        I got that feeling too! I thought he imagined them the whole time. Or that he could possibly been dreaming of it because the story would flash from a time with his father to the red car. It seemed like something that haunted him but not a ghost.

    • jperpich10 February 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      I wasn’t really sure whether we were supposed to take it that his father was actually a ghost, or just an image the manifests in order to have those moments of closure. I think the ghost would be too sci-fi for this story though so it would make more sense that the son is just picturing his father as a way to deal with the sudden death.

      • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

        I think it’s both at the same time. The son “really” sees and hears his father. The fact that it’s his own minding creating the vision doesn’t make it less than a ghost. To put it another way, the son just doesn’t question what he sees and hears. He simply goes with it, and this seems rather Mexican, a culture that largely believes in the supernatural as a regular part of life.

  11. Kaylee Wagner February 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    To me, this has more poetic characteristics than it does story or essay. Perhaps it is because of the uses of slashes, which is how lines of poetry are written when cited in papers, or because of the repetition of “The car is red” which reminds me of a poem about a red wheelbarrow. In addition, the language is dramatic. (“The pain is a sound that hums inside his gut…” and “The truth is a diamond, or at least a broken mirror.”)
    These are merely observations, not criticisms.

  12. RukiG February 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    “Surely we have a conflict here. Father has died, and the son is shocked, wounded, and must deal with the death, both physically, intellectually, and spiritually. But is there a crisis, or climax? If so, identify it.”

    I don’t know if this counts as a climax per se, but I definitely saw a moment of change on page 108, from when the narrator receives the news of his father’s death to when the body is actually buried.
    While we know from the very beginning that his father has died, everything was quite confusing until this point (this isn’t a complaint about the form; I thought it was effective). We were getting fragments of detail, of emotion, of many things. After we actually get the death scene, the story moves into a more reflective, supernatural place that is quite different from the storm of messages we were getting in the first part.

    • Nate Mittelbrun February 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

      I totally agree. I felt the change at this part of the story, but was struggling to put in into words. This summed it up so well. Great comment Ruki!

  13. Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    Well, if the father’s death is the conflict and the ghost of the father is the resolution, I suppose that leaves the climax to be the wake and the son’s confrontation of death and leaving a “childhood” where one is unaware of death (I took that idea from the top of page 108).

  14. jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

    There are different kinds of truth. That is what I believe in. A perspective has everything to do with that belief. “We see what we can.” If something is too outside of our own understanding, we as humans cannot be forced to see it as truth. We want proof, etc. I thought the metaphor of a diamond of broken mirror as truth was kind of brilliant. And it reflects also the shattering of the illusion that his life had presented to him before his father’s death. Now what he knew to be truth, was completely broken, and he would have to find himself in one of these fractured pieces of mirror (truth). If that makes any sense at all.

    • Padraic Price February 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      I thought the same thing: the broken mirror as a reflection (no pun intended) of different forms of truth. they way all the pieces of a cracked mirror reflect slightly different angles.

  15. Padraic Price February 12, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    personally I thought this seemed more like a poem than a prose story. It engages us emotionally with the son in the way only a poem can. Also, I almost got a surrealistic feel sometimes – especially the bit with the ghost. I think that at a certain point form gets too radical for this to be called prose.

    • Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

      Padraic, while I agree that poetry engages the reader differently than a prose piece, I also believe that there exists a form in which both fiction structure and poetic language can be blended. The fragmentary form and the plot structure which includes conflict, climax, and resolution seems to be a common fiction move. The poetic language simply helps justify the fragmentation and move the us emotionally.

      So while, yes I agree the poetic language is the factor that moves us the most in the piece, I do not agree that it crosses the boundary into pure poetry due to the elements of structure that echo a fiction piece.

      • jperpich10 February 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

        Completely agree. As I stated somewhere in these comments, I think this fragmented shape allows for both “fiction structure and poetic language to be blended.”

    • Maggie February 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      I really don’t think that poetry engages the reader more emotionally than prose. I think depending on how a piece is written a reader can feel intense pathos in almost any form. I feel as though this piece lends itself more towards prose due to the fact that it creates a story that builds the reader up as the are taken though the pieces of the accident, the conversation with the family friend and the wake, and finally the conversation with the “ghost”. Not to mention the block shape of the story, and the fact that it is followed with a poem. The poem has such a different feel to it at the end than the rest of the story did.

      • Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

        I agree with you, Maggie. Even if we tried to classify this a “prose poem”….well, it’s just not. It is definitely in the realm of prose, it just uses heaps of poetic imagery.

        • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

          But like brilliant poetic imagery.

        • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

          I like your conviction. Sometimes we just have to draw the line. I find myself agreeing with you. This is an experimental story, but a story.

  16. Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    “Is this more a story, poem, or essay? Surely it blends all three, but does one genre carry most of the weight?”

    In my opinion, this is more a story than anything else. Poetry is blended in, but that’s not a surprising move in a fragmented piece like this. As far as an essay goes, I think the author would need more structure than this fragmented form provides.

    • jperpich10 February 12, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      I agree with you. I see that majority of the piece as a story. However, for me, at the beginning and end when there is so much description and detail being told about the car I thought it took on a prose-y poetry feel. And I think the reason I’m able to see these two forms of writing (fiction and poetry) so well is due to the fragmented shape of the story. The shape itself allows for multiple forms to be used, I think.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      It seems like we are split between this being more like poetry and being more like prose. Does anyone want to argue for essay? To be honest, I didn’t really understand this to have essay blended in.

      • Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

        I think the essay components are blended in with the nonfiction feel of the narrator discussing his grief. I think if it has an element of an essay, then it would be saying something further than fiction, making a very clear point at the end that fiction doesn’t usually come out and say in so many words. I’m drawing a blank as to what that message about grief might be, but I really do think the nonfiction feeling is what lends it an “essay” feel.

        • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

          The end of the story makes me think that the message about grief has to do with the fact that it is actually possible to heal. The final images of honey and gold, new life (bees) hovering over the space where his father’s mouth and face once took up, and the fathers features (eyes, smile) reflected in the breast of mother nature, makes me believe that the son has found some peace. He will always miss and remember his father, but those images are so calming and beautiful that I simply can’t believe that this grief destroyed him.

          • RukiG February 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

            Agreed. Rather than a “message” about grief, I think I read this more as a portrait of how grief (particularly losing a father) affects you.
            The title, “Father Returns From the Mountain,” suggests that though the narrator lost his father to the mountain, he got through his grief and his father has now returned (either through his memories or in ghost form).

        • Kaylee Wagner February 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

          Okay, that makes sense. Thanks.

      • RukiG February 12, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

        I actually did think that this was more like an essay. I had to remind myself a couple of times that we were reading this for a fiction class and that it is (most likely) fiction. I don’t really agree with comments that an essay has to have a “message” or a more concrete “structure.” I write mostly nonfiction and I like playing with form a lot. And this reads like a stream-of-consciousness essay.
        While there is poetic language, and this was presumably published as a story, there’s definitely an argument to be made for an essay.

  17. Laura Seeber February 12, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Comparing the two pieces with snapshots of scenes and the repetition of lines as noted by others I really appreciated. However I found today’s piece more tolerable because it did not feel overdone. The places were the prose stood out refreshed the story for me in a way which made it feel more like a story but still having elements of a poem. However I would agree with Nate that it is more a story to me versus a poem. While you could argue it would be a poem and I am still thinking it could go either way as I type this, I want to say it has elements which also make it an interesting story.

    • jperpich10 February 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      I just wanted to comment on your view that this story didn’t feel “overdone.” I think that’s a great way to distinguish it from yesterday’s story, because the repetition in list shape did feel out of the norm and a bit much for me, while the snapshots in today’s reading was easier to read I felt.

    • Carrie February 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

      I really like the way you put it saying the prose refreshed the story for you. I completely agree with that. While the more poetic descriptions sound wonderful, they do not necessarily move the piece along, and the prose pieces become essential to get the reader to the next scene.

      • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

        Carrie, would you say that in yesterday’s piece, the poetic elements did move the story along? You can’t argue that yesterday’s story wasn’t smooth, unlike today’s story. What do you think the difference was there?

    • Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

      I can definitely see how Monday’s story might have seemed overdone, and I originally felt that way while I was reading it, but I found today’s story to be more confusing because of its fragmentation. While I appreciate the story’s form, it’s intentionally scattered thoughts confused me. It was hard to follow the character’s thoughts, but then that’s what grief can be like for many.

  18. Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    OK, so I mentioned this farther up a tiny bit, but the more I think about the “broken mirror as truth” metaphor, the more I believe the the move with the father’s ghost is meant to be another “broken mirror”, so to speak. The father’s ghost isn’t necessarily the father, but a reflection of the son’s grief, since it tells the son what he needs to hear in order to find some sense of finality and closure. Any thoughts??

    • Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

      That makes complete sense, Alli! I hadn’t thought of it that way until you mentioned this, but it really works well with the story and the “broken mirror” idea. I was beginning to struggle a bit with the idea of the father’s ghost, but this gives more of a purpose to its presence.

    • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

      Agreed yes. And if you consider it farther, in terms of the son’s reflections, the breaks constitute often times his reflections on his life. Does that make sense at all? haha

      • Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

        That makes total sense! That point really lends power to the form choice, since the meaning and the form inform and echo each other!

        • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

          That’s how I saw it. Because of that, I thought that the way it was crafted was pretty remarkable.

    • RukiG February 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      As I said up above a little, I didn’t think his father had actually come back as a ghost. I thought these “conversations” with his father were just a way for him to deal with the grief. If he talks to his dad in his head (as some people do), who’s to say he can’t push it a bit further for the purposes of the story? And in that case, it totally fits with the “broken mirror as truth” metaphor.

      • alexandrapalmisano11 February 12, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

        I agree with Ruki. It seems like this is the only way for him to cope with the death of his father. It’s his way of finding closure.

    • Caitlin Lawler February 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      For me, the “ghost” did seem more psychological then supernatural. I think that people who have lost someone close to them are often haunted in a sense by the loved one. If the ghost is a piece of the “broken mirror,” maybe its the fragments of a person that are left with us when they die; the empty space they leave and our memories of them.

      • Kaylee Wagner February 12, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

        I completely agree.

    • SarahStory February 12, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      I was thinking this too. The ghost of the father doesn’t have to really be the father in order for the son to make sense of and get closure from death. All that matters in the end is that some form of closure happened at all.

    • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

      Connecting the father to the son’s grief is even more plausible when you consider the line on page 107,

      “I sit alone in the funeral home. There is little sound from without; even downtown Tijuana has to sleep. 3:00a.m. No sleep for me. Me and the body we’re wired.”

      This connects these two men on a physical level and it is because of his grief that they are so intimately tied. Therefore, figuring the ghost to be a physical manifestation of the son’s grief only proves that at that moment, they are still wired.

      • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

        Furthermore, if you go farther down the page on 107, they are PHYSICALLY connected:

        “His smiles look like mine. We are connected by the lips. The grin is our chain. I lie on the floor beneath the coffin.”

        In essence, a part of the son has died with the father, the childhood maybe. And in that way, this story is very similar to the story we read for Monday, “Boys.”

  19. Laura Seeber February 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

    Adding on to what I just stated about comparing the two pieces, they both are one large section/ paragraph if you will. However in the piece for today, there are line breaks which prepare the reader for a shift in the story, where as in Monday’s piece it was a big paragraph without these punctuation shifts. Today’s piece is more fragmented then a coming of age piece would be again going back to the idea when you deal with an unexpected loss you thoughts are scattered.

  20. Caitlin Lawler February 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

    One of the more poetic lines in the story that really stood out to me was a description of the father at the time of the accident: “The pain is a sound that hums inside his gut, that pierces his skull.”

    In my and Kristel’s Senior Inquiry class, we’ve discussed how pain is super difficult to express in writing. I thought that line was a really interesting way to try to capture the father’s pain.

    I thought all the descriptions of the father’s thoughts during and after the accident were really intriguing, such as “…he tries to see he is a slab of meat and it makes him angry.” I thought moments such as these brought up the fascinating question whether humans are just a body, or if there is something more.

    • Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

      I agree with this. I really loved that the question is brought up of a person being more than their body. This is also shown specifically in other lines, one of them being the following: “His body will not move–he tells it to–to get the hell up, get back in the car, light a cigarette, go bowling, something. Anything. But he is frozen,” (106). This really intrigued me and made me think about a person being aware that they are dying and gradually gaining understanding of the fact that their body is no longer something they have control over. This story also shows the frustration that would go along with this feeling of loss of control.

    • tylerspellious February 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      Another poetic line I liked was “His eyes are open, but will not function. They scrape up and down, but they cannot break through the darkness that covers them.” And I agree with what you were saying. The feelings of death are hard to describe because (of course) no one comes back after experiencing them, but the author here did an awesome job of capturing the idea of what it must be like to struggle through death, your mind willing, but body unable.

  21. Padraic Price February 12, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    the main difference i noticed in the stories was the view of death. IN “boys” the father’s death is a final thing; in a lot of ways it is what ends the story. In this story, though, the death of the father is what drives the story, what begins its conflict. In this story.

    • Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      Death certainly does drive this story as opposed to “Boys” where it did seem to be the end of the story. I enjoyed that contrast and perhaps appreciated the story “Boys” more because of the finality that it gave death. I became frustrated at points in this story because death wasn’t final for the main character, I was confused throughout with if and when his father actually died. I do understand, however, that this move was very intentional, showing the character dealing (or not dealing, initially anyway) with the death of his father.

      • Maggie February 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

        I think in both stories death is actually the beginning. In the “boys” story, the death of the father means the birth into manhood for the boys, it means a new chapter in their life. For this story Death is very literally the beginning of the story, and I also feel that it is the start of this main characters independence as well, I especially get that feeling based off of the conversation he has with his “dads ghost” at the end when the dad tells him to start focusing on himself.

        • Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

          You’re right, Maggie. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s totally correct. The death is at the literal end of “Boys”, but it does mark the beginning of their lives as men.

    • jperpich10 February 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

      I didn’t think about it like that before but I totally agree with you Padraic. But I also feel like the death of their sister in “Boys” kind of drive the story too, specifically driving the boys apart from each other, and their differentiation as they grow up. But I agree that the final piece in “Boys” is the father’s death, where in today’s story death is a driving force visible through the entirety of the story.

      • alexandrapalmisano11 February 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

        In “Boys” it seems like life is what drives the story. The whole story is about growing. And once the characters have finished growing, they experience there fathers death which resolves the growing of them and turns them into men. The story we read for today was driven by the death of the father. I thought that the whole story was him coping with it and reflecting on his fathers death and all the feelings he felt. I thought the resolution of this story was the memory of his father.

    • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

      In “Boys” while I noticed the idea of finality, I also felt that the father’s death marked the beginning of something and not the end of it. But that’s just me.

  22. Padraic Price February 12, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    also, i vote “no” on the ghost thing. I don’t really have a good argument; i just hate it. I feel like ghosts are always cheesy and cliche no matter what. No ghosts. ever. except in hamlet. and star wars.

    • Alli February 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

      You should go read some of the conversations on the “Ghost” theory above! Many of us think that the ghost is more likely psychological and just a way for the son to work through his grief. Perhaps that helps your thoughts on it, perhaps it doesn’t. Just food for thought!

  23. Kaylee Wagner February 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    What did everyone think about the poem at the end (pg 111)? I thought it added to the story. It made it even more personal.

    • Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      At first, I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be included with the story, but it definitely fits. I thought it was beautiful, and definitely adds a different element to the story, seemingly inserting the father’s perspective and words.

      • RukiG February 12, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

        I wasn’t sure either whether it was meant to be included with the story, but it felt like an abrupt shift in POV for me. For most of the story, we’re so focused on the son and his point of view that shifting to looking at Rosario through time was a little strange.

    • SarahStory February 12, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

      The poem made the the death very real, opposed to believing the man that died was just a character. The poem is much shorter, but it stirs more sadness and emotion in me than the story did. The appearance of a ghost, psychological or not, doesn’t make me feel as sad because though dead, the father can still exist in some form. The complete absence of the father’s presence in the poem makes it sadder and less neatly wrapped up than the story.

      • Kristel_E February 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

        I agree, Sarah. For me, the poem evoked a lot more sadness and really gave an emotion to the story. I felt like it gave me something more solid and clear to hold onto than the story did (with its shifting thoughts and time). Once I decided that it really did go with the rest of the story as a sort of end, it made me feel better about “Father Returns from the Mountain” and gave me a sense of completion with it that I didn’t have before reading the poem.

  24. Maggie February 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    This may seem like a random question, but I was wondering how people viewed the setting, would it be a very different story if it were not in Mexico? Slash did anyone think that he was trying to make a statement about how things are in Mexico? I know I have a friend who is from Mexico and he said that when someone in his family had an awful wound (like a gunshot) or needed emergency surgery they would rush them to the hospital and the doctors wouldn’t even touch them until they brought them 30,000 dollars and often times without friends with you at the hospital you were left to die. On top of that many hospitals were not well equipped. I felt like there was a little bit of this going on when he was sent to the clinic, strapped down, given morphine and was basically left to die. I feel the culture plays a large role in enriching this story. Especially with the connection that they have to the dead.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 12, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

      “the doctors wouldn’t even touch them until they brought them 30,000 dollars and often times without friends with you at the hospital you were left to die.”

      There is a part in the story when the father is taken to the hospital:
      “And there, the nurses find him almost dead, and strip him bare, and shoot a load of morphine in his fallen veins, and tie him down in case he kicks, and leave him naked eight hours alone. He knows he’s naked–God, he’s mad.”
      When I first read this part, I thought it was strange they left him alone for so long, but pushed the thought away, thinking that there was probably nothing they could do. Now, I think they left him to die, and that makes me angry!

    • jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

      One can only assume that his culture had obvious affects on his life, this incident, and therefore this story. I would say you could definitely make an argument for this, Maggie.

    • Nate Mittelbrun February 12, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

      I hadn’t considered it all that much. I think setting it in a different location would definitely change aspects of the story though, particularly his interactions with his father at the end. He remarks specifically that the Mexican people have a close relationship with the dead along with great respect for them. Had this not taken place in Mexico the audience may have read into the ending a little bit more and assumed he was either crazy or his dad actually turned into a ghost, which I think many of us have stated here we feel doesn’t work with our readings of the story. I’m not sure what exactly the author may be trying to say, but I definitely feel the setting was chosen purposefully, and without it the story and it’s shape would probably change.

    • RukiG February 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      I agree that culture did play a role in enriching this story. Once we got the line about how connected Mexicans are to their dead, the “ghost” (psychological or physical) of his father was much easier to swallow.
      I don’t think Urrea was trying to make a statement about Mexico because this was such a personal story focused on the narrator and his emotions. But I do think it would have been a very different story if it wasn’t set in Mexico. There was a very communal feeling to the death (from the family friend being the one to tell the narrator, to the people looking into the room where the coffin was) that would probably have been missing if it was set in the US.

    • SarahStory February 12, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      The culture of Mexico, and its interest in the dead made it easier for me to accept that the son could see his father’s ghost. Perhaps it’s also making a statement on though death and the dead are celebrated in Mexico, none of the grief that comes from the death of a loved one should be diminished.

    • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

      Wow. Interesting story about your friend. Just last night I was talking to a breast cancer survivor who lives here in Mexico, and she assured me that Mexico has universal free health insurance. Strange discrepancy. Still, the woman I met certainly has first-hand experience.

      • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

        She did say, however, that some of the care isn’t top notch, but it’s there are free and mostly does the job. And $30,000 seems like WAY too expensive for Mexico. It’s like fifteen dollars to get major dental work done here. 30,000 pesos maybe. That’s about three grand, which is still a fortune for most Mexicans.

        • Maggie February 12, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

          Haha I don’t know, I think he was talking about how corrupt it is. That despite the universal insurance the hospitals themselves are corrupt. He said anytime they hear that someone in their family got injured in an emergency half the family goes to the hospital and the other half goes to get cash. Maybe it depends where you are in Mexico? Because the story he told me specifically was when his Uncle got shot so maybe it is not as nice there.

          • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

            Makes sense. I certainly don’t doubt your friend’s take on it. And yes, she lives in a pretty swanky part of Mexico. Certainly there is rampant corruption, and the rich are treated differently than the poor (as is the case everywhere).

  25. Caitlin Lawler February 12, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    Here’s my suggestion for the crisis moment of the story: When the father is being buried, and the son is watching the dogs and whores and cops going about their lives as usual. “People are eating and laughing and sweating and making love and my father is dead. The world has not even hesitated.”

    Then the “resolution” would be the son accepting the “ghosts” advice, “Don’t be sorry. You waste so much time you need for yourself.” The image at the end of the story of regeneration, the bees making a hive in the car where his father died, suggest that he won’t be arrested by his father’s death forever, but will be able to move on.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

      That reminds me, I really like how throughout the story is “The car is red,” but when the beehive is in the car at the end, we get “A slow, warm cascade of honey spreads over the traces of demolition. It is gold.”
      There is the movement from red (associated with blood) to gold (associated with warmth, the sun, or if nothing else, not blood).

      • alexandrapalmisano11 February 12, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

        I agree. I really thought that that last image showed that he was accepting the fact that his father had past and everything would be okay.

      • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

        Yes.

    • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

      Brilliantly put.

  26. RukiG February 12, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    We kind of hinted at this up above, but this is something about which I don’t know how I feel. Did you think the conversations with the ghost father were cliché?
    I started off thinking that they were (did it hurt to die? did you see God?), but then I wondered what I’d actually ask someone who’d died. These are some of the biggest questions we have about death, questions that we’re never going to answer, so in a way, it feels logical that they’re the questions the narrator asks.

    • SarahStory February 12, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

      From the father is a ghost psychological viewpoint and the father’s a real ghost viewpoint the questions make sense. If the son imagines his father as a ghost, everything the son says is to console himself and ease his grief over his father’s death. If the son is really taking to his father’s ghost, it might be the only chance the son has to learn about the experience of dying.

      • RukiG February 12, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

        Makes a lot of sense! I didn’t think about this before. Another thing that would, perhaps, add to the imagining perspective is the fact that the father doesn’t really answer either question. He says it hurt before he died, and then moves on to the fact that the son’s grandfather is proud. And he only turns on the radio in response to “Did you see god?”
        Though I suppose this could make sense in a “You’re not allowed to know these answers” kind of way.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

      I don’t know how I feel either. I guess those would be the kind of questions I’d ask, too. But I also think there should have been a “Why? Why did this happen? Why you?”

  27. Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Anybody still here? Just got out of my meeting.

  28. jessicasiverly February 12, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    o Connecting the father to the son’s grief is even more plausible when you consider the line on page 107,
    “I sit alone in the funeral home. There is little sound from without; even downtown Tijuana has to sleep. 3:00a.m. No sleep for me. Me and the body we’re wired.”
    This connects these two men on a physical level and it is because of his grief that they are so intimately tied. Therefore, figuring the ghost to be a physical manifestation of the son’s grief only proves that at that moment, they are still wired.
    If you move farther down that page, you will read the lines:
    “His smiles look like mine. We are connected by the lips. The grin is our chain. I lie on the floor beneath the coffin.”
    In essence, a part of the son has died with the father, the childhood maybe. And in that way, this story is very similar to the story we read for Monday, “Boys.”
    Thoughts?

    • Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      I like.

    • Kaylee Wagner February 12, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

      I want to say there is a quote somewhere stating childhood ends when we realize we can die/when we experience death.

  29. Kelly Daniels February 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    As usual, you guys rock. See you Friday. I’ll have to be late, as I’m doing a reading until 1:15. I’ll try my best to jump in, though you seem to do just fine without me.

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