Small Worlds and Confinement

In Chasing Orion, Georgie has a hobby of building small worlds. She builds scenes from The Martian Chronicles or from Nancy Drew, bringing the stories to life inside cardboard boxes. Because she is so in tune with the idea that full stories can take place within small spaces, she is ideally suited to imagine the life of a person confined to an iron lung. Unlike the other characters in the story, Georgie immediately assumes that Phyllis is a complete person inside her machine.

On her first meeting with Georgie, Phyllis says, “I have eighty-five centimeters of air, but you have the world.” This makes Georgie uneasy because she does not know what it means. Over time, she realizes that Phyllis lives in the narrowest possible prison. For the first time, Georgie is forced to consider the idea that it may be better for a suffering person to die than to continue living. Although she struggles with this idea, she does not fully reject it in the end. She does, however, fight against Phyllis’s plan to trick Emmett into facilitating her suicide.

When Georgie grows up, she will have access to a whole world of opportunities, as Phyllis points out at the beginning of the story. However, at the time of the novel, she is still a child. She has less freedom than any other major character aside from Phyllis. Georgie’s parents determine where she lives, where she goes to school, and what she is allowed to do for fun. Because her family has recently moved, she has to start her life over in a new place. Because a polio epidemic is underway, she cannot pursue her favorite summer activity, swimming. Partly because Georgie lacks control over her own life, she has an easier time empathizing with Phyllis than adults do.

“The Lady of Shalott”

In the novel, Phyllis’s mother is a college professor who loves to read “The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson...

(The entire section is 893 words.)