Tobias Wolff's Bullet In The Brain

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Language is powerful, and can even mean the difference between life and death. This proves to be true in Tobias Wolff’s short story “Bullet in the Brain,” in which he makes a point about criticism and language. The main character is Anders. His profession as a book critic is essential to the story because he deals with language every day. He even ridicules bank robbers who point a gun at him because their language is stereotypical. Due to his mockery of their language, one of the men ultimately executes Anders by shooting him in the head. One of the messages Wolff communicates is that life is more enjoyable when you are less critical. Anders’ life declines as he complains about life and places aspersions on people and written works. Wolff uses…show more content…
Anders relished their language, even if it was incorrect. For example, a boy that was playing baseball with Anders as a kid makes a grammatical error, and it is interesting to Anders. The boy says, “‘Short 's the best position they is’” (Wolff 484). This intrigues Anders, according to Wolff: [Anders] wants to hear Coyle 's cousin repeat what he 's just said, but he knows better than to ask. The others will think he 's being a jerk, ragging the kid for his grammar. But that isn 't it, not at all - it 's that Anders is strangely roused, elated, by those final two words, their pure unexpectedness and their music. He takes the field in a trance, repeating them to himself.” (Wolff 484) Instead of making fun of the playmate, Anders ponders the fascinating language he uses. He simply enjoys the moment because he has not become a professional critic, and loves language as it is. Paul Contino has some information about this short story. Contino got his ph.D. in English from Notre Dame, and has been an editor and professor for years. He is currently a professor of Great Books. Contino says, “On that day, Anders was utterly receptive to life 's simpler joys, untainted by the ironic edge that provokes his death” (Contino). Contino is explaining that the irony employed as a literary device coincides with Wolff’s point that life is better when an individual does not analyze every little sentence spoken. Wolff reveals the difference between these two mentalities Anders lives out by taking the reader back to Anders’
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