Since the beginning of human life, fathers from around the world have played a vital role in their sons’ lives, whom they have had to learn to fish, hunt and survive in general. It has been crucial for fathers to hand over their knowledge to their sons. Concurrently with the development of human life and its foundation, it has been possible to form a social stratum given that it has been facilitated for some people to make more money than other people have. Furthermore, this evolution was an influence on the family relationship, were the man became the new capital in society, and thus became more important than the woman. As the men were working, the women became responsible for the children and therefore had an enormous impact on the behaviour and upbringing of the children. Mark Slouka’s short story, ‘Crossing’, from 2009 shows a number of these important themes, such as the father/son-relationship and man vs. nature. The protagonist in the short story is the father, an unnamed man somewhere between 30-50 years old. The father finds himself in a small depression: ”He hadn’t been happy in a while.”
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1. Recently, the father was divorced from the mother of his son, which is shown in his thoughts about whether he had missed his wife or not. “…he hadn’t wanted her back, hadn’t wanted much of anything really”
2. Even though the main character has a guilty conscience, and it seems that he is the one to blame for the divorce – he feels a desire to make things work again – both his relationship to his ex-wife and most important of all, the relationship to his son. “When he looked at her she shook her head and looked away and at that moment he thought, maybe — maybe he could make this right.”
3. The father comes across as an honest, caring and loving father to his son, and quickly we consolidate sympathy with him as a reader. “…when the boy came running into the living room he threw him over his shoulder, careful not to hit his head on the corner of the TV…”
4. The protagonist takes his son on a trip to make up for the divorce and to improve their relationship. The father wants to share some of his childhood memories he had as a young boy with his dad. The main character used to go on this exact trip; therefore, he repeats the same rituals and traditions to give his son the same experience. ”This is it, kid, the old man would say whenever they turned off the main road, you excited? Every year …”Almost there,” he said to the little boy next to him. “You excited?””
5. As the main character sees the river for the first time in many years, he is considering calling of the trip – the river is much greater than he had expected from it. Yet, he believes that there is no way out – he cannot turn around. There is nowhere else to go, which could symbolize him being in the middle of something – with no turning back. ”For a moment he considered pulling out, explaining … but there was nowhere else to go.”
6. During the short story, the father gives his thoughts and some comments on the things happening, which builds up a thrill in the story. The protagonist points out repeatedly that what they are about to do is dangerous. He knows that he is putting himself and his son into danger, but he wants to convince himself and his son about the fact that he is a good father. “People in a hurry get in trouble.”
7. “”So what do you do if you fall? He remembered asking once … – and the old man calling back of his shoulder, “Do not fuckin ‘fall.”
8. The solicitude of the father reappears as he tries to calm down the boy as he stumbles in the river on their way back. The father knows that they are in a bad situation but he remains calm for the boy’s sake. In fact, the father himself is very scared and afraid of what is going to happened – at this point he has lost hope. Even though, he wants to appear brave and to show himself from his best side, when all he wants is to be a good father. “He could hear himself, breathing hard. ”I’m okay, kiddo. I’m okay. That was not good, but we’re fine. “They were fine.
9. Since we do not have access to the boy’s thoughts and feelings, Mark Slouka draws a picture of him with descriptions through the father’s mind of the boy. We get the picture of a little fragile boy, who needs to be taken care of by his father. This makes us sympathize with the boy and especially the father, who needs to take care of him throughout their trip in the wilderness. ”He tried not to look at the boy sitting where he’d left him on the opposite shore because there was something about the smallness of him in his blue shorts against the bank of stones he didn’t like…”
10. There is a third person narrator in the short story, which is attached to the father since we get to know his inner feeling and memories. “You never see it, he thought.”
11. Slouka places the point of view with the father in order to show us how he experiences the situation of having been divorced, and how he now tries to regain order and meaning in his difficult life. The short story is arranged in chronological sequences, but with flashbacks. The time jumps from the present to the past. The present is in the wilderness at the river, and the past is when the father picks up the boy at his moms, and when he thinks back on his own childhood. The amount of energy used to build up the tension in the story is great. From start to finish, the reader is given a feeling of discomfort, and that something bad will happen. The author achieves this suspense by using the environment and the mood of the story. From the beginning the mood ominous and menacing. Rain, fog and emptiness dominate the description of the environment they find themselves in. In this way, the thrill is build up just as slowly, and as a reader, you are waiting for something terrible to happen. ”It was raining… […] A black road… […] The line of the open sky in the east was razor sharp… […] The empty road…”
12. The river is the main environment in which the story takes place, in and around. The river is larger and more violent than the main character remembers it: “The river was bigger than he remembered it, stronger.”
13. The river itself show some ominous signs as well which helps building excitement in the story. You always have the feeling that something bad is going to happen. When standing in front of the river, they sees something in the river that looks dead, something that has been shot. As a reader you are left with the question whether they survive the river or not. Furthermore, the ending points in the direction of death. ”He wanted to scream for help. There was no one – just the rushing plain of the river, the trees…Everything had come together. He couldn’t move. He was barely holding on. There was no way.”
14. In addition, the title “Crossing” points in the direction of death. When you use the phrase “crossing over” it is usually associated with death. You will go to the other side. It is a bridge between life and death. The river becomes the tunnel – the question is if they reach the light or survives from it. The ending might seem unfair, tragic and unreasonable. However, the open ending gives the reader a choice of life and death – The author puts the characters destiny into our hands. Even though the story ends up in a bad way to the father and son, the trip has been a journey that has brought the two characters even closer. In fact, the father gets the perfect opportunity to perform the action of being a good parent. The most important thing in the father’s life ended up being the last. The short story shows how little and insignificant man is in relation to Mother Nature.