Last week, I mentioned giving some critical analysis of the story I shared, “In Transit.” I normally hesitate to give an analysis over my own writing because I am a big believer in reader created meaning. Once something is able to be read by an audience, authorial intent doesn’t matter as much to me as the reader’s interpretation. Readers craft meaning from the text alone or from viewing the text through a prism of historic events and the author’s biography, but either way their interpretation is based on the text. As you can imagine, over the years J.K. Rowling’s tweets about Hogwarts fall into this particular ire of mine. It doesn’t matter if Rowling says that Dumbledore was gay or, my least favorite claim, that there were Jewish wizards at Hogwarts, if she put no evidence of that in the text. If she wants these elements in her story, she needs to write a new story with them present. The text does not support her authorial intent. The problem with analyzing your own writing is that authorial intent is implied and often given much more weight than reader crafted meaning. So this is me, the author, saying that if your reading of this story differed from mine and you can pull out textual evidence to support it, then your interpretation is just as valid as my own.
This story is told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator taking a bus from London to Scotland. Gerald projects his fears and hopes for his future onto the fellow passengers on the bus, while memories of his life in London come to him through the scenery out of his window. The setting of the bus, coupled often with memories of the theatre, places the story in an ephemeral state. This setting plays into the overarching theme of the piece, also reflected in the title, Gerald’s life is in transition. From Gerald’s perspective, nothing is lasting: the discomfort of a theatre seat is soon forgotten if a play is good; a trip to the theatre is a small escape soon over; if he manages to catch and stop another one of his brother’s suicide attempts then another attempt will inevitably follow. He views himself as a ghost in his own home life, unable to make a lasting impact. His familial relations play into this lonely perspective: his mother’s death by lung cancer, a painfully absent father not even mentioned by Gerald as he struggles to define manhood, and a brother disappearing into depression– all things that are beyond his control. While his perspective dominates the story, there are moments the reader is invited to question the validity of his conclusion. He is constantly anchored back into reality by his discomfort. Gerald remains a nameless character on a bus until his motivation is revealed in a memory alongside his name. When the usher from the Tricycle theatre knows Gerald’s name, the reader must question Gerald– is he really as transient as he feels himself to be? For years he attended the theatre weekly and an usher at just one of these theatres now knows him by name. Our patterns of living are noticeable and impact the lives of others. Something that only lasted a few hours like a play, can change a person’s life forever.
Essentially, this is the story of a delusional man who saw an actress on stage and jumped on a bus to follow her home. In his mind, they are already in love based on supposed eye contact she gave him during the play. But if you have ever been on the stage you know, she is an actress looking out into a dark audience with stage lights in her eyes. The story ends in a transition of his daydream of her. He starts his daydream on the bus but is disrupted from that daydream in a different time and place– Gerald and the reader are pulled back to the theatre when he first saw the woman. We are tapped awake into reality by a concerned usher who knows the narrator’s name, the woman gone and the stage now empty. The story ends with Gerald on the precipice of a manic decision to follow the woman to Scotland. While the bus trip he is taking to make that decision seems ephemeral, the implication is that its impact is life-changing. Gerald is hopeful for this change–he believes that this woman will love him–but as a reader, the ending isn’t hopeful to me as much as it is an honest assertion that we are often unaware of the impact our lives have on others.
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