Views of My Father Weeping by Donald Barthelme

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Views of My Father Weeping Summary

Views of my Father Weeping written by Donald Barthelme is a complicated story about the death of a father. The story begins with the narrator's father getting run over by a carriage. Because of the carriage and descriptions of the scenery, the reader can assume that this portion of the story takes place in the past sometime when carriages were a form of transportation.

When the narrator is told about his father's death by the police, he decides to search for witnesses of the event. One witness the narrator finds is a young girl who only sees one small part of the accident because her back was turned. This little girl appears later in the story as well and gives the narrator more information about the man driving the carriage.

The narrator also encounters two other females who give him information about his father's accident. A lady named Miranda tells him how he can find the man who ran over his father. Another woman gives him information about the coachman of the carriage.

After speaking with witnesses, the narrator does not have a clear account of how his father was killed. Some people say that the father was drunk at the time of the accident while others say that he was not and that the carriage could have avoided hitting him entirely.

While this storyline is going on, another one is presented which is made up of scenes of the father weeping and doing other strange things.

Throughout the story, the narrator wants to avenge his father's death and is unsure of how to stop his father's weeping.

The story ends with one ambiguous word, etc. This causes the reader to wonder about the narrator and his father without ever finding a complete solution.

Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “Views of My Father Weeping,” there is no realistic plot line based in the conventions of cause and effect and set in some existing time and space. Rather, Donald Barthelme presents the reader with a story about the supposed death of a narrator’s father combined with interlineations that present alternating views of a father weeping. To complicate the matter even further, the story about the death of the father may or may not be true because the coachman, who storifies the experience, is reported to be a “bloody liar.” In addition, the juxtaposition in the story of the narrator to the coachman suggests a doubling of the two men, an identification that makes the narrator a “bloody liar,” too.

Asterisks separate thirty-five paragraphs that constitute the story. Paragraphs range from twenty-five lines to one line, the shortest being the last, which consists of one abbreviated word, “Etc.,” which brings the reader back to the beginning of the story in an endless circle or a series of infinite regressions. The retrograde character of the action is consistent with the interlineations where “regression” operates in psychoanalytic terms to suggest a return of the libido to earlier stages of development or to infantile objects of attachment in the case of both father and son.

The opening of the story consists of two sentences establishing a possibly factual situation: “An aristocrat was riding down the street in his carriage. He ran over my father.” The presence of an “aristocrat” in a “carriage” suggests a period when noblemen were driven about in coaches by liveried coachmen. The place of the accident, in King’s New Square, together with references to the nobleman, the Lensgreve Aklefeldt, a count who lives at 17 rue du Bac, suggests a European setting. On the other hand, the interlineations refer to, among other things, mail carriers, insurance salespeople, armadillos, Ford Mustangs, television, and the American plains in such a way as to identify a setting in modern times in the United States. Furthermore, in the interlineations, the father is alive, if aged and continually weeping.

The tie between the storified experience concerning the death of the father and the interlineations is the narrator. In the storified experience, the narrator is searching for the...

(The entire section is 1,328 words.)