Thursday, April 19, 2012

Analysis of Boyle's "Carnal Knowledge"

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At the end of T. Coraghessan Boyle’s short story “Carnal Knowledge,” the main character, Jim, feels “plucked and gutted and served up on a platter.” While his intentions for participating in the animal rights campaigns throughout the story were false and insincere, I do not feel that Jim deserved the treatment that he received from Alena at the end of the story.

Throughout the story, Jim is portrayed as just another “typical guy” who will go to all lengths to win over a woman’s heart. In the beginning of the story, Jim tells us how he is currently “between relationships,” and how he is spending his birthday alone on the beach, reading a book and “feeling sorry” for himself. We also learn that he has had the same “dull” job for nearly ten years, and has recently grown to dislike it. Clearly, Jim does not have much going for him at the time, and a girlfriend, or simply someone to spend time with, would be ideal.

Alena then comes along, and Jim suddenly sees her as a golden opportunity to improve his life. He chooses to spend the night with her, rather than “heading over to his mother’s house for dinner and the cake with candles,” and goes back to her bungalow, soon realizing that Alena is a very interesting woman with extremely strong views on animal rights. This is when Jim’s “typical guy” portrayal kicks in, and he decides that in order to win over Alena’s heart he is going to have to agree with her and speak out against animal cruelty as well. While in the beginning of the story, Jim admits that he “never really thought much about meat,” and has always enjoyed eating it, he decides that giving it up would be well worth it.

Jim soon falls in love with Alena and finds himself quitting his job in order to attend the many protests and animal rights functions that Alena attended daily. Though in the back of his mind he knows that if he had the chance he would eat meat and enjoy it, he refrains from it, simply to make Alena happy.

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At the end of the story, when Alena leaves Jim and decides to go to Wyoming with Rolfe, I truly feel bad for him. Throughout the story he struggles in every possible way just to get this one woman to love him, but in the end comes out with nothing. While many would say that they do not feel bad for Jim due to the fact that it is not right to take on a false identity simply to gain a romance, I feel that Jim’s decision to take on these false beliefs and identity are completely justifiable. Jim saw Alena as someone who could improve his life in many ways, and was willing to give up his job, as well as his love for meat, in order to satisfy her. Personally, I feel that Alena was rather selfish in her treatment of Jim. She never truly took the chance to get to know him, and was only concerned with her own interests. In a sense, I feel that, from the very beginning, Alena actually realized that Jim was just another “typical guy” and completely took advantage of him, knowing that he would do almost anything to make her happy. After all that Jim goes through, I strongly disagree with the way that Alena simply disregards him and leaves with Rolfe. He gave up everything to gain what he thought would be a great woman, only to realize that he had completely lost in the end.

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Devin Richard said...

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