English as they are socially and economically, that
English 102 7 April 2000 English 102Literary Analysis In Search of EntertainmentBoredom is what comes after the basic needs are filled and it is what drives human beings to do what they do best, entertain themselves at any cost.
In Splinters as well as in Bad Boy Number Seventeen, the main characters are so bored with their lives, as different as they are socially and economically, that they create most unusual hobbies for themselves and in the end up paying for it. These stories both focus on the lives beyond the basic needs. They focus on the mental hunger that comes after the physical hunger is satiated. If we as the reader understand that world of monotony and compare it to the world in which we create our own entertainment and our own fantasy, we can understand the motivation behind the actions of the characters in these stories.Mark Karma, of Splinters by Melvin Jules Bukiet, is rich. He was not so when he was young and he spent a good deal of his life making himself that way.
From his post college days he struggles with that mediocre monotony that leads him to be thirty, married, baffled and balding, and returned to science fiction in his spare time, first for escape and then for sustenance. (92) Things go well and after he realizes that he needs to make his literature as plain and flashy as possible for it to sell, things get even better. From then on he spends his days buying, selling, trading and entertaining himself in his daily toil. And in effect, through his work he manages to entertain himself.
But what does a man who has everything do? Money is no longer an issue; he can spend it but it is not much fun without a purpose. So he makes his purpose the one thing that has been thought impossible to do: to put together the original cross. Not because he is religious, because even if he was he would belong to another faith altogether, Son of a White Plains dry cleaner, urged but never convinced to believe in a vague suburban Judaism, the sacraments of which were lox and pastrami. (91) What gets him is the challenge. Since the task is so difficult he can spend much of his time doing it and since it is so expensive he can put his money to use. Money is also a factor that gives him leverage in this form of entertainment, otherwise what was the point of making it? He had already purchased every other remnant of the cross that had come up for sale on the secondary market.
Most of these relics were clearly bogus provenance, but he didnt mind. His capital seemed endless, and though he was willing to haggle, he always, always, ended up with the merchandise. (100)This is the point at which his hobby becomes an obsession. He spends more and more of his time working on it. He buys out every splinter that anyone will sell him and those he cannot buy he goes so far as to hire thieves and forgers that can duplicate the pieces he wants and then steal the original one from the safe it was in and replace it with a forgery.
On top of all that he also would buy his own forgeries when they actually went on sale, just to avoid suspicion. (101) This is a man so bored with his life that he through trying to entertain himself ends up creating a deadly obsession for himself that is the basis of his religion: money.Karma has a sort of tunnel vision; he wants as much money as possible so he can obtain every piece of the crossone might see Karma as completely blind because, although he has one center of focus (the cross), his lack of true faith supercedes it. His faith in the Almighty dollarseems to leave little room for God and what many call religious values. In fact we see very few good values being displayed by the protagonist. (75)This is the opinion of Holly C. Neibauer in her essay on The Almighty Dollar: The (Pseudo) Religion of Wealth and Possessions in Splinters.
Money does supercede everything in his life and in a way becomes his religion. A devout person will see many adversities through out his life but in each one of them he will have faith that God will somehow fix everything. Mark, in the same fashion of blind faith, believes that no matter what kind of bumps there are on his road the omnipotent and omnipresent dollar will smooth those bumps out. He has no doubt, like the religious have no doubt that while they have faith they will be watched over, he has no doubt that money will come to his rescue as long as he possesses it. His blind faith is the basis, but the outcome is the obsession, and in many ways it resembles the obsession described in Bad Boy Number SeventeenThe narrator and leading lady of Bad Boy Number Seventeen, the short story by Lucia Perillo, is on the opposite side of the financial spectrum.
She is, in extremely blunt and not so politically correct terms trailer trash, the teased hair, Elvis loving, ripped jeans wearing, gold chains dangling, gum chewing, Glam rock listening, Budweiser drinking epitome of all American mediocrity. She may not even do those things; she just fits the stereotype so perfectly. She does not even have to say it out loud in the story. You can gather it from the kind of men that she likes, from the kind of cars that she dates them for, for the lovely tattoo of a rattle snake all down her arm and for the jobs she works. The snake gives you a hundred demerits in all but a few select kinds of job interviews; they finally took me in at the boat shop, where a tattooed woman is not considered all that strange. Boat people have a tendency to give what other people might consider sluttishness a wide berth.
There arent really any sluts in the boat world, the way there arent really any sluts working at the Handy Rental, or working in Accounts Payable at Ralphs Kustom Kar Kustomizing (329-330)The possible guest of Ricky Lake, this girl is not the one to be reading for pleasure. In her little world of beer, bars and pick up trucks she has found herself the perfect entertainment that always leaves her sad. She finds men. She calls them bad boys and is fully aware of the fact that they are the scum of the earth. I mentioned that Ive observed bad boys up close, but now let me confess that I havent always proved to be the shrewdest judge of human nature. Most of my run-ins with bad boys have turned outwell bad.
(329) But for a person for whom intellectual excitement is a nonexistent concept, physical and emotional excitement is the key to breaking that everyday apathy. They get her drunk, they give her tattoos, they have sex with her and eventually leave her. At the end of the story she addresses a question to some outside listener and asks why this always happens to her. The answer in one way is that it is the subconscious expectation of the downfall that gets her there in the first place. Straight away that culprit gland starts spewing acid in my gut and cranking down the ratchets in my chest.
See, when you meet a boy like seventeen he sticks like a nasty bout of flu (332) But unlike the theory of Susan Balee, she does not simply accept the inevitable (66), she finds it and begs for it. How spine tingling is the prospect of finding some nice guy who will never really do anything out of the ordinary and might end up living a happy but dull life with you for the rest of your days? To her the whole anticipation of trouble is the start of the thrill. She longs for that break from the monotony like the addicts in Junk long for their fix. It is a warm and comfortable place for her. The fact that her men are not named in the story has something to do with it too.
She is so bent on collecting these bad boys that she no longer cares who they are and no longer sees their faces. She sees their credentials so to speak, their potential for being a bad boy and they become nothing but a number to her. They are not long term, life-changing experiences. Theyre like minor car accidents, unpleasant, but they get the adrenaline going.
Like Mark Karma, she is obsessed with this experience of getting something that clearly doesnt belong to her. In his case it is the nonreligious man that is trying to buy a piece of religion for himself and in this case it is the girl who is trying to get a guy who she knows will do her no good and who ends up being married. Both these stories deal with people subconsciously disillusioned about their lives because in one way or another they are caught in stagnant waters. They have no excitement in their lives and the only exhilaration they get is by spending time on their hobbies. One collects the pieces of the cross and the other collects men that mean trouble. To both of them it becomes an obsession that they can no longer control. It is there and is part of them and there is nothing they can do about it.
For Mark at the end of the story, the obsession becomes deadly and has the potential of becoming the same thing for the leading character of Bad Boy Number Seventeen. Everything they do revolves around what they obsess about. With Mark it is about getting the money to get the pieces of the cross no matter what the cost; with the narrator of Bad Boy Number Seventeen it is working in the boat shop and going to bars and hanging out in places that get her closer to her trouble causing paramours.
This is their only protection from the horror of boredom and monotony.Works Cited Balee, Susan. The Disappearing Mother. Rohland, Cavoto, and Hemmeter 65-71.Bukiet, Melvin Jules. Splinters. Henderson et al.
89-109Niebauer, Holly. The Almighty Dollar: The (Pseudo) Religion of Wealth and Possessions in Splinters. Rohland, Cavoto, and Hemmeter 73-79. Perillo, Lucia. Bad Boy Number Seventeen. Henderson et al.