Sunday, February 15, 2009

Black Betty / One Good One

This week, I chose One Good One by Chuck Hogan as the short story to compare with Black Betty by Walter Mosley. I really enjoyed the entire reading of the novel, and the short story was okay.

1. Compare / Contrast: character, plot, setting, theme, length, preference.

To me, the character development of the two pieces is the most interesting comparison. In Black Betty, the reader is clearly provided a protagonist, Easy Rawlings. Although he is rough around the edges, he is clearly the main character and the one that the reader is drawn to route for. In One Good One, there is Eddie Milk a.k.a. Milky, who appears at first to be the main character. But while reading, character after character is introduced, a web of connectedness is weaved between all of them, and it appears that Milky just happens to be the character at the beginning and at the end of this circular tale.

The characters in Black Betty were well developed, and I felt myself drawing conclusions and building varying opinions of the characters as the story developed. But in One Good One, I didn't ever really build any feelings for any of the characters. They all either seemed unsavory in some way, or were just so flat that I didn't think twice about them. I think that was the point that Hogan was trying to make, though. His intention was that the reader wouldn't become emotionally attached to any single character, so that the intricate plot could unfold more easily.

Both stories were set initially in a low-income, inner portion of a big city. The setting made both stories more believable. Both stories had plots that required the reader to pay attention and "keep up" with things as they unfolded.

The length of the short story, in this case, was just right. I was able to follow the story as it bounced from one character/location to another. It was this bouncing around that created the web-like connectedness of the plot.

Of the two pieces, I really enjoyed Black Betty the best. I think I just felt more compassion for these characters and felt more connection to their lives.

2. Differences due to gender of author?

Since both pieces were written by men, I didn't really see any. However, I did note that Hogan's female characters were pretty obnoxious.

3. Review of short story. Like/dislike.

The short story, One Good One, begins with the introduction of Milky, a drug addict, as he returns to his mother's home after having been released from jail. We learn that Milky's brother died of an overdose, and the mother is very naive about the lives of the men in her life. Milky goes to his dealer, looking for a fix. During this transaction, his dealer thinks Milky may be up to something. Then the story bounces to two detectives who work in the district that Milky and his pals live in. Then, the story bounces again to the dealer who is discussing an illegal job that the group are planning. They wonder at Milky's motives. After a few more bounces between Milky, his mom, his mom's "friend", the friend's son, the dealer, the dealer's friends, and the detectives, there is quite web of dysfunctional association revealed. I think the mystery just happens to be, "where is this all going?" The big "AHA" comes at the very end of the story, and is actually worthwhile. The ending is wrapped up pretty well, and makes it all worth reading through.

4. Reflection

I really appreciated the chance to read Black Betty. I found it a little hard to connect with Easy at first. But it was really good for me, personally, as an exercise in understanding and accepting diversity. Once I got over Easy's violent nature, and was able to understand the love and care for others that he possessed, I became comfortable with his being the protagonist of this novel. It reminded me that one can never underestimate what motivates a person.

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