English 10 SS Notes
“Fragility” by Carol Shields - On p. 237, even before the story starts, a brief one-line excerpt appears on top of the page. “A few gulps of oxygen...” What does it mean?
- Quote suggests that human life is fragile, much like the title. The title is easily related to story and the theme is relatively easy to identify, but it's the details that really illustrate the author's message.
- What does the narrator see in the young man? The young man is eagerly taking all of life in. Contrast the young photographer's reaction with that of the older couple (the story's protagonists) and their experience vs. youthful exuberance.
- Husband (narrator) is nameless, wife is Ivy, son is Christopher.
- Why was it so difficult for the couple to move? Initially, it was leaving their neighbourhood behind. What does that say about life and permanency? What about the statistics given about the amount of people moving?
- Most people undergo a lot of change in their lifetime. Some changes are good, some, not so good. That also plays into the theme of “fragility”. How much control do people really have over their lives?
- The couple needed a change to escape from the tragic events of their past.
- They hope that a physical change will promote an emotional change.
- Idea that certain houses give off certain vibes. Kind of like Chinese idea of Feng Shui, almost.
- First house they come across is a divorce house. Does Shields mean that marriages are fragile? Do you agree?
- What about the house with the mother of a movie idol? Why does the couple think that it's a sad situation? What do you think Shield is commenting on regarding the fragility of relationships?
- Young woman with the twin kids is another house owner. The young family is moving to Toronto. Again, people are constantly moving in the story and there really isn't a very stable, “stay-put” family in the story. All the characters in the story seem to be transitioning or needing something.
- Pay close attention to the various houses and their owners.
- p. 244: House owner with twins does not believe she'll find another place like her home in “a million zillion years”
- p. 245: Couple is resentful that other people have a “roof over their heads”. The house is a symbol of stability and durability. Contrast that to the idea of fragility. Constantly moving, constantly in a state of change: Is that fragility?
- p. 246, second to last paragraph: Narrator reflects on what he thinks is the fragility of human life. How much control do people have over things? It's all in the details sometimes. Little things here and there can have drastic consequences.
- The couple feels a “vibe” everywhere they go and they ponder whether others will feel Christopher's vibe in his room when they move in.
- Message: It's all in the title. The story suggests that human life is fragile and full of change. The idea is to connect with others (in order to move on sometimes) and go with the flow. Accept the fragility and move with it.
- To help you with the test: Come up with an original topic sentence or thesis in relation the theme and/or message of the story.