“Story Dissection”

Here’s all that is needed to dissect the story:

Thematic Elements

1) The man loves his wife, as in true to life.

2) He aligns himself as stoic minded, level headed and reasoned under the pressures of living, or at least this is how he aims to be: how can he articulate restraint if he himself lives emotionally daub?

Content and Characters

3) The story grounds itself in that day to day love sans sensationalism and sweeping romanticism, the established kind, not to be confused with the indulgences of conception, loss, and return—that’s what other stories are in the market for.

4) Their nightly ritual generally ends with his wife reading, whether from a book or on her phone, under a bedside lamp, while he flips through mindless snippets of television channels, claiming doing so helps him dream, content to escape the day together.

On Narrative Structure: Direct Argumentation

5) This particular evening, she shows him what she’s come across on her phone: the work of a young, German artist who uses salt and gold luster glued to black canvases to make detailed to the point of realistic pieces.

6) She has shared works with him before, innocent in her want to encourage and connect and inspire.

7) He scoffs the image of the Taj Mahal.

8) He doesn’t feel his irritation is unjustified, subjectively speaking, because he’s allowed a bad day even if days consist of the same perpetual cycle and it is interpretations of outside forces that determine the perceptions of good or bad, so on this particular day, being exhausted artistically and existentially, as people get, he is easily annoyed by the inconsequential when overwhelmed by his own insignificance.

9) Therefore, he doesn’t deem it necessary to apologize for coming across rude, as an apology implies an admission of guilt, a cliché bowing to the weight of the world.

10) But that’s a bit clichéd as well, isn’t it? People balancing their views around these truisms as if they’re facts, as if justifying veracity on they’re predictability and overuse.


11) The couple is in bed, which isn’t uncommon, albeit overused, for stories between lovers; however, the characters are not overdrawn in any way, in conflict nor sexually: they’re quite literally in bed, on their usual sides, under the covers.

12) She sleeps on her back facing the ceiling.

13) He sleeps on his stomach facing the wall.

On Narrative Structure: Backstory

14) Exposition explains the man is a painter, his work tending to fall in the realm of pointillism and has so for the past twelve years, self-justified as a period he’s going through.

15) He keeps a wide brimmed hat he’s never worn, which he bought dust covered from a flea market because it inspired in him Maxillien Luce, in the second bedroom of their two-bedroom apartment they lovingly refer to as the studio.

16) He’s only sold one painting at his only gallery showing.

17) The gallery has since closed their doors.

18) The wife stands by his work.

19) Potential. Always fucking potential.

Present, Tense, Climax

20) Laying in the dark, the man’s inexplicit harangue, through his unconcealed metaphor of reading a pointed summary instead of reading the story as it’s intended, never explicitly asks what’s the point of painting anymore?

21) She responds, rejecting the want of argument, but he’s unable to hear with the voice in his head beating him down.

22) They’re too tired to drag this on, carry this out, so they drop it where it may.

23) Don’t go to bed angry: he knows this well, but he isn’t mad at her, he’s upset with himself, not wrong for what he said, wrong for how he said it; therefore, he can’t apologize for being honest without blatantly stating truths, so he stays on his stomach rather than rolling over to kiss her cheek, and lets the heavy air weigh on him.

What’s the Point?

24) When he wakes, he finds her in the bathroom, she’s straightening her hair, he doesn’t say a word, she doesn’t say a word, he comes up behind her and wraps his arms around her, she places the iron on the sink and leans into him, her hair warm against his cheek.

25) Their eyes find each other’s in the mirror’s reflection, and they see in each other a new day.

26) So what is the point? A story is as clear-cut as life as it is not, deep, vague, personal, universal, satisfying some absolute without answering the condition.

27) As implicit in the final line: the man starts a new painting that afternoon, seeing over and over the image of he and his wife in the mirror, perfect and real, his small smile acknowledging the mistakes made, her understanding of love staring back, a work of individual dots and their culmination.


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About Donald Ryan

My words have appeared in print and online, most recently in Cleaver and Unbroken Journal. I'm a full-time part-time librarian in the GA Pines. www.donaldryanswords.com and/or @dryanswords