Wednesday 17 April 2024

Chablis by Donald Barthelme

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene \ With beaded bubbles winking at the brim.

"Chablis" is the first short-story to appear in Donald Barthelme's collection entitled, "Forty Stories." Similar to some of his other early works, it seems he's teetering on the brink of discovering his unique literary voice and postmodernist flair. Certain moments resonate with quintessential Barthelme charm, particularly through his witty humor. However, overall, the story adopts a fairly straightforward narrative approach, lacking the surreal experimental style for which he will later be renowned.

The domestic nature of fatherhood and the challenges of raising a young child is at the heart of this story. Through the narrator's internal reflections, we are drawn into a world of palpable anxiety, where the parental concern feels deeply relatable. There is a wry, sardonic tone to his anxious thoughts, which contribute to the story's darkly humorous appeal. For instance, worrying if the baby will stick a utensil into an electrical outlet or get sick from eating Crayolas. This familiarity strikes a chord of recognition, especially among parents. The baby is more emotionally attached to the narrator's mother whereas he struggles with establishing his role as a reliable and competent father. Since these heteronormative domestic roles are highly gendered, he seeks to make himself useful and regain some confidence in the area of raising this child. Hence, the flashback to his reckless youth when a near-fatal car accident ensued from his intoxicated state, serves to complete the narrative arc. This poignant reflection offers him a newfound sense of confidence, suggesting that just as he managed to navigate a crisis in the past, the challenges of parenting might prove surmountable after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment