Examine the moral and social purpose in "A Short Story Written with Thought-to-Text Technology."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Eisenberg's short story illuminates some distinct social realities and moral revelations.  One social purpose of the story is to show the sometimes crippling condition of freedom.  The protagonist possesses total freedom.  He is able to live in a house provided for him by his former in- laws, and is free to pursue his own interest of writing- "I mean, painting."  The narrator has choices in front of him on both temporal levels such as what he wishes to order as well as existential, continuing writing or deciding how to live his life.  Yet, within this wide array of freedom, one sees that the narrator is crippled by it.  

Freedom and insecurity become inseparable.  The narrator realizes this with freedom comes insecurity and self- doubt, something that plagues him throughout the narrative.  This helps to illuminate the moral purpose of the story.  At some level, possessing a condition of being that is not totally dependent on freedom gives purpose and meaning to one's existence.  Freedom is important, but the narrator finds himself clinging to aspects that are fleeting: Whether he is good looking enough to ask the barrista out, whether he will ever see Rebecca and Steve fight, or if "he was going to die fat and bald and alone and miserable in the ugly house his in-laws bought to suffocate and kill him!"

In this light, the moral and social purpose of the short story becomes to illuminate how there must be structure to one's being in the world.  The ending of the story in which the narrator is convinced of his writing as writing is reflective of this:  

I’ll eat and drink and then get back to work. Everything seems to be flowing well. It was a little tough getting into it but now it’s really flowing. It’s weird how I do that—how I think I can’t write something and suddenly I’m carried away and then I can’t stop writing. I think I’m too hard on myself. I think I punish myself for no reason. But I think I’m really hitting my stride now. I’ll just get that tea. That nice hibiscus tea.

And then get back to work.

There is some level of hope when the narrator embraces his condition of needing to "get back to work."  The focus and discipline that is present in his work, what he no longer calls "painting," is reflective of its importance. When that structure is there, the insecurity and doubt of freedom in the modern setting is removed and replaced with focus and drive.  The small break for the tea is hopefully a small one, and not an opportunity for further doubt to erode his being in the world.  It is in this call for focus and purpose that the moral and social relevance of the short story is present.

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