Initiation is the theme in fiction involving the process in which a person recognizes some truth about the world. It also expresses the idea that while the person gains something, for example, knowledge, he or she must lose something at the same time, for instance, innocence or unawareness (Coyle 49). This essay will discuss the theme of initiation as a point of reference in analyzing the play “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” and the novel “Dept. of Speculation”.
There is much to discuss in Ruhl’s play “Dead Man’s Cell Phone”. The principal theme of this play is the need for communication in a technology obsessed world. However, there is one more essential topic: the illegal market trade of human organs. This book gives a reader a dramatic look at the indecent and illegal business of Gordon. The protagonist Jean wishes to change the situation. Throughout the whole story, she learns new things about life. She starts living the life of the dead man Gordon. Jean presents herself as a sacrifice, stating that people can only give their organs away because of love (Ruhl 98). She begins to be a real altruist, and it is a complete change of her personality. She faces an ethical choice and makes it in favor of humanity, not herself. Jean chooses to risk her life and give a kidney so that she can substitute Gordon’s negative energy and his selfishness with her positive outlook on humanity. In such a way, the author expresses initiation in the play. Jean’s worldview begins to change. The changes are significant and irreversible. She begins to think differently, and to live another life, which is completely different from her previous one. Interestingly, while I was reading the story, it seemed to me that Jean came to this world and changed deliberately to bring Gordon’s life to an end.
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In Jenny Offill’s novel “Dept. of Speculation”, the protagonist realizes the truth of life and marriage. She becomes aware of what the marriage indeed is: far from perfect, with all its difficulties, betrayal, and hardship. As a Finnish proverb says, love is a flower that turns into fruit at marriage. However, the modern life disproves this saying. Contemporary fiction is close to real life; that is why it depicts how it looks like, without any decorations or exaggerations. Nowadays, that fruit of love is often spoiled. Thus, it becomes the theme of many novels that express how complicated it is to love and remain honest and sincere with only one person for the rest of one’s life. It is a great struggle that costs much effort. Not everybody can pass through such difficulties; often people fail and give up half way. Marital crisis completely changes the main character’s mind and outlook.
The author presents the story in fragments, which are like memories that come to one’s mind when they are trying to think about other things. Jenny Offill’s story “Dept. of Speculation” expresses the marriage through interesting, sometimes weird fragments of prose. Offill’s novel is the bright example of such notion as initiation. Throughout the entire story, the protagonist learns many new things about life, marriage, and motherhood. Importantly, the new information influences her to a large extent. “Dept. of Speculation” is especially charming and appealing when it shows new motherhood. The feeling of great pleasure, happiness and loneliness, and extreme exhaustion at the same time are normal for the mother. The woman loses her innocent outlook and explores the world in a different way. The author completely describes new orientation of the protagonist. A reader begins to feel a great, comprehensive power of this woman. The most exciting person in the novel rises from this raw energy.
As it was previously indicated, an ethical choice is the distinguishing feature of initiation, and it is present in the story. The main character experiences a very painful and bitter period in her life: she faces unfaithfulness and betrayal. She goes through the stage of self-doubt and hesitation. The wife tries to estimate her role in the marriage that is about to fall apart. Each of her thoughts, actions, and even mistakes make her a more attractive and engaging character, full of different feelings and emotions.
While reading “Dept. of Speculation”, I had one question in my mind: what happens in love and marriage? Then, I understood that people love someone at a distance, but they give up and even betray when they get too close to the person.
While analyzing the story, I noticed that a reader knows almost everything about the wife. They sympathize with her and share her emotions, namely, the ones she has as a betrayed woman. However, the author does not express the husband’s views on their marriage. Her husband appears in the text like a fragment, like a part of the woman’s life and her thoughts. They both try to improve their relationship. Her character becomes more complicated and attractive; however, his image is unclear, and he becomes even more inexpressive.
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The wife says that every marriage is a sham. Even if it looks perfect from the outside, it can be spoilt and rotten inside (Offill 171). In fact, this book is not the story of their marriage; it is about the wife’s marriage, wife’s experiences and wife’s internal changes. It would be interesting to read another story, written from the side of the husband. Something tells me that it would be a story with a totally different look at marriage and family life.
It seems that both works, “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” and “Dept. of Speculation” have different types of initiation. In my opinion, in the first case, the decisive initiation can be observed. The situation, in which Jean finds herself, shows her all the realities of life as they are. It changes her mind and outlook. The second story involves self-discovery. I would say that this type of initiation is uncompleted. The protagonist in a trap, in a struggle for certainty.