This sounds weird that repetition is a good thing, and maybe this overlaps with foreshadowing, but I was reading “The Ghosts of Christmas” and I found through each repetition, the author was actually reinforcing the character’s wants and needs, strengths and weaknesses. Through repetition, the author helped construct a more believable story. (Spoiler alert!)

1st: “It’s been proved that certain traits formed by a child’s environment do get passed down to its own children…I’m going to be a terrible parent” (Cornell 37)

In this quote, Cornell establishes that his protagonist belief that she is going to be a terrible parent because that is how she believes her parents were. To re-establish this fact, or repeat it, he transitions to a memory.

2nd: Dad watched football and in response to his daughter’s ‘play with me,’ said “You start, and I’ll join in later.” (38)

Another memory.

3rd: “…and in a moment they’d be bound to notice me…But they went to bed without looking in the lounge. I listened to them close the door and talk for a while, and then switch the light off, and then silence, and so it was just me sitting there, watching the greys flicker.” (38)

Her parents always forgot her. And although they weren’t particularly abusive, they were neglectful, never giving her the attention she deserved. In another memory, he drives home the point of her parents’ neglect.

4th: “I was standing in a lay-by, watching the cars go past, wondering if Mummy and Daddy were going to come back for me this time…I was six years old.” (38)

This was all back to back memories, stressing the protagonist’s concerns that she is going to be a terrible parent because that is how her parents were, which is a familiar feeling for most parents – will we grow to be like our parents?

I really liked this technique, this repetition of memories after her fear in order to stress what kind of parent she thinks she’ll be and in order to develop her history, since the reader can tell early on there is a stressful relationship between her and her parents.

It’s backwards of action, reaction. Sort of a reaction, action, used more for internal reflection rather than external response. I think this technique definitely worked rather well, especially in combination of Cornell’s expert weaving in and out of scenes. Just like the last story “Old Paint,” he did a good job combining mini-scenes to establish this character.

Cornell, Paul. “The Ghosts of Christmas.” Year’s Best SF 18. Ed. David G. Hartwell. New York, NY: Tor, 2013. 34-54. Print.


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