This past Thursday I attended the reading of “The Common Application” by Marian Crotty. She told a story in the form of numerous essays outlined as if they were being submitted as part of the Common Application. The essays were told from the perspective of a young girl who was a senior in high school. She focused on her relationship with her boyfriend and her relationship with her mother. The story was written in order to answer questions asked in the application, but at the same time it still fit together very well and flowed nicely. From the reading we learned that the main character’s mother tries to commit suicide. She tries to shoot herself in the head, but just ends up making her face ‘explode’ and doesn’t end up dying. When her daughter visits her in the hospital, she tells her that if she died she would want her to think that her death was an accident. The main character is surprised that her mother thought that shooting herself in the head could appear as an accident. Clearly, her mother was depressed enough to try to commit suicide, but she also made a somewhat impulsive decision and wasn’t thinking about the consequences when she pulled the trigger. She wasn’t thinking about how her death would affect her daughter or even about how if she aimed incorrectly that her face would be deformed for the rest of her life.
Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado also has a similar theme in which the characters make impulsive decisions. The short story has two characters, Montresor, a wealthy man proud of his family name, and Fortunato, Montresor’s friend that spoke poorly of the Montresor family name. Montresor, seeking revenge on Fortunato, plans his murder. Because Fortunato is an avid wine lover, Montresor entices him into his basement by drawing him closer and closer to his cask of Amontillado wine. Fortunato impulsively follows Montresor into the dungeon of his basement led by his love for alcohol, but in turn leads himself to his own death. Although Montresor’s decision to kill Fortunato was not impulsive, he most likely didn’t think of the consequences of his actions either. Either way, both the decisions Fortunato and Montresor make lead to a sad ending to the story.
My Papa’s Waltz is narrated by a little boy. He writes about his father and how he is abusive towards him and his mother when he drinks. The poem has a similar alcoholic theme as The Cask of Amontillado and the father also makes the decision to drink and hurt his family without thinking of the consequences. He makes the decision to drink, but doesn’t think about who his drinking is affecting. Mitsuye Yamada’s Cincinnati is told by an immigrant describing his first day in a big city. He is called a “dirty jap” and is spit on shortly after he begins walking around. His excitement about being in a big city for the first time quickly turns into self-consciousness and he begins to cry. The person who spit on him and called him a “dirty jap” wasn’t thinking about how those words and actions would affect the character in the poem. They impulsively said and did something hurtful and irreversibly awful.
All four readings contain the theme of rashly making decisions that affect the lives of others and involve consequences that were not well thought through. If the main character’s mother in “The Common Application” had actually died, she would no longer have a mother during one of the most important times of her life. She still has to live with the fact that her mom was willing to die without saying goodbye. Montresor ended Fortunato’s life over something quite miniscule in The Cask of Amontillado. The father in My Papa’s Waltz ruins his relationships with his family because of his alcoholism. The life of the immigrant in Cincinnati is now miserable because of the decision made by the person who spit on him and called him names. These readings have reminded me that today as a society we all tend to make decisions impulsively without a second thought. We think of ourselves more than we think of others and that causes pain and regret. In order to change our ways as a society we need to begin putting others first and ourselves second.