George Saunders

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It has been said that every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Is "Sticks" by George Saunders a story by this definition?

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"Sticks" by George Saunders is indeed a story by this definition, as it is told in a fairly linear narrative.

The story begins one Thanksgiving, where the narrator's father, as is his annual tradition, drapes a Santa Claus suit over a kind of crucifix in the yard that he's made out of a metal pole.

Dad dresses the pole differently according to what time of year it is. In Super Bowl week, it's dressed in a jersey and helmet; on the Fourth of July, Uncle Sam; on Veteran's Day, a soldier; and on Halloween, a ghost. This still doesn't explain why he dressed the pole in a Santa suit on Thanksgiving.

Anyway, the narrative in this very short story moves on to Christmas, where we're told that Dad doesn't much go in for seasonal glee all that much. The holiday season's not all that jolly for the narrator and his siblings due to their father's grim, overbearing manner.

Time moves on, and Dad's dressing of the pole becomes progressively more eccentric. When an earthquake strikes Chile he lays the pole on its side and spray paints a rift in the earth.

As Dad approaches his dying days, he paints the pole bright yellow and surrounds it with six crossed sticks. On the string between the pole and the sticks, he attaches little messages, one of which appears to act for forgiveness. Through the pole and the sticks, the old man is doing something that he's never been able to do directly to his children: communicate.

Not long after, Dad passes away, bringing the story to its natural conclusion. This is an ending in the fullest sense of the word, not least because the sticks and the pole that the old man put up in the yard also meet their end, pulled out and left out by the side of the road for garbage day by a young couple that's bought the narrator's family home.

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