Heroism in The Falls
The Falls by George Saunders introduces itself in an odd manner, by putting the insecurities of one of its characters, Morse, on display. Morse is a man full of regret and anxiety, with story from his point of view being filled with fretting on things left undone and things left to do. The second point of view character, Cummings, is an egotistical, slightly delusional man, brimming with false confidence in himself and his skills as an artist. The Falls is a story about two very different men, and their actions when confronted with a difficult decision.
Morse is most surely unsure of himself in all respects, the best example of this being his encounter with Cummings. His initial reaction upon seeing Cummings is to hope Cummings does not “collar” him. Upon successfully evading “collaring” he reconsiders and becomes concerned that Cummings, who he himself described as “an odd duck, who though nearly forty, still lived with his mother” may not like him, and even goes so far to wonder if he had done anything to offend Cummings. A man he had in a prior thought, earnestly hoped would not speak with him. He goes on to express his displeasure with his life and reflect on his dreams and ambitions as a young man and where it all went wrong.
On the other hand, Cummings feels “pleased” having snubbed Morse, a “member of the power elite”(178) by not speaking with him. Cummings is a different sort of sad. He is a slightly delusional man, and holds himself in the highest regard, constantly putting his impressive vocabulary on display for no other reason that to reassure himself of his intelligence. He dreams of his pending literary fame, which rests solely on his genius put down on his little yellow note pad. If only he could remember to carry it.
Position Paper Things Fall Apart Once Joseph Conrad, a British novelist, posed the question, Does life inevitably find us out by placing us in that very situation which most severely tests our values?" The man has always tried to find the answer whether his life is determined with the destiny or he can change it himself. In the story Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe showed how the reality of change ...
These two contrasting characters make their forthcoming individual decisions regarding the soon to be disaster at the falls quite intriguing. On one hand, a man with very little confidence or respect for himself, and on the other a man who is quite full of his own ego. Two unlikely, and certainly not ideal heroes thrown into a difficult and potentially fatal scenario, asked, by chance, to put their worth on display. If asked about such a situation, one would think that Cummings would surely respond in the heroic fashion, while Morse would shrink away from such a conundrum, baffled by the thought alone. The reality of the situation turns out to be much different.
Fittingly, Cummings is confronted with the predicament as he wraps up a round of reveling in possibilities of his own person. His initial reaction, as is to be expected, surprise and anguish, followed by his tale coming to an end with: “…I must do something, and he stumbled over the berm uncertainly, looking for help but finding only a farm field of tall dry corn”(185).
George Saunders uses vivid imagery in this scene, Cummings standing alone looking at a field of corn confused and scared, as two young girls hurdle ever closer to their deaths, making a decisive statement about Cummings. A man constantly making schemes on things he must do, or should have done to achieve greatness, stumbles upon a heroic opportunity, and makes the potentially damning decision to turn his back upon them.
Respectively, having seen the imminent disaster Morse starts by running towards the girls, while simultaneously playing out the tape of possibilities in his head. Wave after wave of doubt hit him yet he stays the course. Having had experience with the dangerous falls, a disaster from his high school days, a certain amount of personal responsibility is implied, and despite knowing “he had never been good under pressure and in a crisis often stood mentally debating possible options with his mouth hanging open”(186), he continues his pursuit. His unusual thoughts during this time, such as his wife’s sexual feelings for him, prior to making his decision play into the realism of being inside a man’s head that suffers from crippling anxiety in such a situation. Having for all extensive purposes writing off the lives of the two girls to a lost cause, Morse makes the hard decision, kicks off his shoes, and dives in after the girls.
Arranged For Better or Worse Everyone knows how hard it is to find a mate for marriage. Having said that, each person is free to decide how the mate selection will take place. Some people would rather conduct this selection by themselves, without any help, while others prefer to get help from an outside source, like their parents or a matchmaker. Before continuing it is wise to make a distinction ...
Confronted with this ethical dilemma the two characters make sharply different decisions. Cummings who is caught up in his own potential and dreams shows his true colors by making the easy choice and avoiding the situation. Meanwhile the second potential hero, Morse, an unlikely hero at best, puts all he has on the line on a risky bet in favor of his own abilities, and the lives of two strangers. While the story concludes with Morse’s unlikely act of heroism, and not the lives of the girls being saved, a statement is made about the character of the two men. Despite the characters’ measure of their personal worth, the story ends with the reader seeing that real heroism can lie in the most unlikely of places.