How does “Bullet in the Brain” transition from summary to scene or from scene to summary? What is it that makes this particular transition so effective?

"Bullet in the Brain" concludes with a series of transitions between summary and scene as the bullet enters the protagonist's brain and he recalls scenes from his early life. These transitions are effective because they emphasize the contrasts between past and present and between appearance and reality.

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In the summary part of prose fiction, a writer gives the reader information about what is happening. In the scene, the writer describes the thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions of the characters. The end of Tobias Wolff's "Bullet in the Brain" provides particularly effective examples of transitions between the two when the eponymous bullet enters the head of the protagonist.

In "Bullet in the Brain," Anders is a literary critic who is present at the scene of a bank robbery. He is presented as a cynical, curmudgeonly character who is shot because he cannot keep his mouth shut. He seems to regards everything around him as fodder for his criticism, even the clichéd language of the bank robbers. The story ends with him being shot through the brain.

This action gives rise to a variety of scenes, the simplicity and innocence of which are at odds with the reader's previous experience of Anders's personality. These scenes are linked by the summary announcements that the bullet continues to travel through Anders's brain in the present moment. First, there are scenes involving his ex-girlfriend and wife; then there is one in college, with a professor reciting from a Greek play; finally, there is a baseball game forty years ago. The story ends with Anders still on the brink of death, remembering his childhood.

These transitions are effective because they highlight the contrast between past and present as Anders regresses to boyhood at the moment of his death. The detail of the descriptions shows both how vividly he recalls these scenes and how slow this sudden event appears to him. Moreover, the reminders of the speeding bullet in the summary show the reader how different his perception is from that of everyone else watching his death, showing the immense gap between Anders's outward appearance and his inner reality as he surveys important scenes from his life.

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