A Few Thought About My Daughter's Short Story
In my previous post, I published a short story by my daughter Suri who is four. In this post, I’d like discuss that story.
For those of you who have not had a chance to read the story, here it is, reprinted in its entirety:
Once upon a time, nobody knowed what to do and they falled dead.
I’d like to start with some positive thoughts I have about this work. First off, I appreciate the story’s structure. Unlike a lot of short stories by children, this one has characters, conflict, and resolution. The story’s protagonists (nobody) encounter a familiar problem (ennui), the result of which is tragic and predictable in its simplicity (death).
The story raises some interesting philosophical questions, not the least of which is the nod to Satre by naming the main character(s) “nobody.” With no activity, the characters are truly at an existential loss; predictably there is only one possible outcome.
The author also raises the ghost of Descartes (Cogito, ergo sum - “I think therefore I am”). With nothing to do, the characters are clearly incapable of even thought, therefore, to turn Descartes’ phrase on its head, they are not.
Locating the story in a nebulous “once upon a time” setting is also a fairly stark but illuminating choice. The time could be any time, and therefore the problem is one of universality. The winking “once upon a time” also upends the traditional fairy tale, upsetting the normal “morality play” construction and replacing it with a more contemporary, if nihilistic, worldview.
That’s the good news.
Setting aside the poor grammar for a moment, I see some areas where the story could be improved. The first thing that jumps out at me is the unnecessary and sophomoric “poo-poo” addendum. What purpose does this serve? It certainly does not seem to relate the rest of the story, adds nothing, and in fact detracts from the profound questions the author poses. Poo-poo, indeed.
Second, I would also lose the redundant “the end.” Once everybody in the story dies, adding “the end” seems purposeless; furthermore it closes off any additional room for discovery. By forcing the issue, “the end” negates the reader’s ability to discern for herself the question of finality in a radical existential thought experiment. Might the story be more powerful if it ended with “they all falled down dead?”
This critic and father definitely thinks so.