By now, you’ve read Liliana Hecker’s short story The Stolen Party. For this course, I like to assign literature so that we can look at it as writers instead of simply readers. I like to discuss the choices writers make with other writers. And by discussing the work of other writers, we always learn more about our own craft.
Hecker hits all the marks with this story. She creates a fully-developed PROTAGONIST (the main character who somehow changes by the end of the story). She creates several ANTAGONISTS (the character, thing, or convention of society that is pitted against the PROTAGONIST). And she develops her main character’s EXTERNAL and INTERNAL CONFLICTS. (Of course, the EXTERNAL CONFLICT takes place outside of the main character, and the INTERNAL CONFLICT takes place within the main character.)
Here’s a brief run-down of what I see in the story:
Protagonist: of course Rosaura changes by the end of the story. She learns that her mother was right; the rich folks at her friend’s party see her and treat her as just “the maid’s daughter.” This change means that Rosaura has grown up a little. She’s lost her innocent acceptance of everyone, and she’s learned that prejudice is a very real thing in her life.
Antagonists: At first, Rosaura’s mother is a perfect character antagonist because she doesn’t want her daughter attending the party. Another character antagonist is that awful, bratty girl at the party who questions Rosaura’s right to be there. Good old Rosaura gives this awful girl a kick and a small slice of cake, so she seems able to stand up for herself.
However, the biggest antagonist in the story falls under the “convention of society” category. Simply put bigotry/prejudice is the real antagonist. Mama doesn’t like rich people, and this bothers her daughter. The bratty girl and Luciana’s mother both condescend to Rosaura simply because she comes from a lower class. The magician calls the frightened little boy “a sissy.” If Rosaura needs to learn a life lesson, this story has it all.
We have external conflicts: the bratty girl; mama’s initial refusal to let her daughter attend the party; etc. We have internal conflicts: Rosaura’s conflicting feelings about the way her mother acts and speaks; her feelings that people should not be judged unfairly; her anger at the story’s end.
Here are some questions I’d like to discuss with you based on the story. Feel free to respond to all of them, a few of them, or only one. No wrong answers here. Of course, I’ll jump into the discussion a lot, but please consider me as just another writer who has ideas to share.
1. Some readers come away from the story thinking that Rosaura’s mother is a terrible mother. She does speak harshly to a little girl, yes? But is she a bad mother?
2. Children are particularity difficult to write. When some writers create child characters, they are way too sweet and therefore not credible. Let’s discuss what makes Rosaura (or the other kids in the story) real. What particular details make these kids credible?
3. Is the ending too subtle? Notice the narrator doesn’t really end the story. The story ends with an incomplete gesture. Why doesn’t the writer tell us what Rosaura has learned?
4. The writer chooses the third person to narrator the story. How would the story be different if she chose the first person, allowing for Rosaura to narrate the story herself? Would the first person be better in your opinion?