Select one scene in "You're Ugly, Too" by Lorrie Moore and explain Moore's staging, as Baxter defines it.

Charles Baxter's concept of staging appears in several scenes throughout Lorrie Moore's story “You're Ugly, Too.” Characters' physical positions, gestures, and interactions are prominent in the description of Zoë's date with Murray Peterson and in her encounter with Earl on the balcony. Atmosphere is key to understanding the emptiness of Zoë's house and Zoë herself.

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Charles Baxter defines staging as placing a story's characters “in specific strategic positions in the scene so that some unvoiced nuance is revealed.” Staging can include a character's physical position, gestures, expressions, and physical interactions with other characters as well as the atmosphere of the story's setting.

Lorrie Moore uses...

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Charles Baxter defines staging as placing a story's characters “in specific strategic positions in the scene so that some unvoiced nuance is revealed.” Staging can include a character's physical position, gestures, expressions, and physical interactions with other characters as well as the atmosphere of the story's setting.

Lorrie Moore uses staging in several scenes in her short story “You're Ugly, Too.” Let's look at some examples. Moore uses a flashback to give readers a glimpse of Zoë's social life when she describes Zoë's date with Murray Peterson. Notice the staging here. We can picture the characters sitting around a table in a restaurant. Murray is not interacting with Zoë but playing footsie with the wife of the couple they're with. Murray is clearly not interested in Zoë, and Zoë herself isn't particularly interested in their date. We read that she speaks with her mouth full, an indication that she does not value the conversation.

The atmosphere aspect of staging is clear in Moore's description of Zoë's house. Zoë is apathetic towards her house, for it is “rather empty,” and Zoë cannot seem to find anything she likes well enough to fill it. The wallpaper shows gaps where the previous owners papered around furniture, and Zoë does not cover the gaps because she keeps returning all the furniture she buys when she decides she doesn't like it. The house, she seems to think, is more trouble then it's worth, and its gloomy, empty atmosphere reflects Zoë's gloomy, empty life. She cannot decide what she wants for herself either or who she is going to be as a person, so she keeps trying new things and “returning” them when they fail to satisfy her. Zoë doesn't know what she wants in her house or her life.

Finally, Zoë's interaction with Earl on the balcony of her sister's apartment is an example of staging. Earl is leaning on the balcony's railing. He has turned away from Zoë, indicating his rapid loss of interest in her. Zoë comes up behind him and gives him a shove. He doesn't fall, of course, but his arms slip forward, and he is frightened. Zoë brushes her action off as a joke, but it is probably more of an expression of the disgust she feels with him, with her life, and with herself, for Zoë's life lacks any particular meaning.

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