What I Saw from Where I Stood Essays and Criticism

Marisa Silver

Personality Differences in the Two Main Characters

Marisa Silver’s short story “What I Saw from Where I Stood” is, as one can tell from the title, an account of limited point of view. It is Charles’s view of what happened to him and his wife following her miscarriage, and Charles narrates the story. The story illustrates how people read their environment differently depending on their point of view. To each person, some details stand out more than others, depending on the person’s experience and his or her makeup. When two people experience loss, they may come away finding separate meanings in their shared experience. The significance of those details is determined by a person’s perception. So while one person might be filled with fear and pessimism, as the wife Dulcie is, another person might focus on other details and be filled with awe and excitement, as Charles is.

In Silver’s short story, the narrator begins by describing Dulcie’s fear. She is afraid of freeways because she feels she cannot control where she is going as well as she can when she drives along side roads with regular intersections and streetlights. Later, the narrator explains that Dulcie likes to analyze everything. She needs to know the cause of her circumstances, needs to know why she miscarried the baby, what she did wrong to have the car stolen, why the rats come to their apartment wall to make scratching noises behind their bed. For Dulcie, believing that she is in control gives her courage; she can accept their circumstances as long as they do not disrupt her sense of how things should be. Unfortunately, their circumstances constantly show her she is not in control, and so they frighten her. She continually anticipates something dreadful may happen. Suddenly vulnerable after the baby’s death, Dulcie begins to dread the worst. Her life and her thoughts are constantly distracted by possibilities of doom. Why else would she be fearful of being on the freeway and having limited options of escape? It is because she expects the worst to happen and needs a quick exit in order to avoid it. Ironically, her avoidance of freeways made her choose a side street where their car was hijacked.

Looking back on the months following the baby’s death, Charles begins the story the evening they drove home from a party: he was drunk, and Dulcie was driving. He sits in the passenger seat, looking out the window, watching the scenery change from suburb to urban setting then watching how the people change from guys with “pudgy girlfriends” to “boys strutting the boulevard, waiting to slip into some one’s silver Mercedes and make a buck.” He is leaning back, somewhat dazed, and taking in the details. Even when the guys who eventually steal his car bump into the back of them, the narrator simply reacts to the slight dent in the fender rather than immediately wanting to accuse anyone for the damage. The incident happened; it was not big thing, and the narrator is ready to move on. Having been drinking, Charles takes things in stride, does not need to justify or explain them. But when he sees that one of the carjackers has a gun, Charles admits that he is scared. Now he reacts. He pulls Dulcie, and together they run away. As they consult with police, Charles is more able that Dulcie to get over this experience.

Dulcie, by contrast, will not let go. She attempts to gather all the details like someone piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. She wants the incident to make sense. In the process, she feeds her fear. The youths have the narrator’s keys. If they look at the car registration papers, they will know where Charles and Dulcie live. Dulcie does not stop there. She imagines. If the youths who robbed their car know where Dulcie lives, she automatically assumes that they will come after her. If they come to the house, what will they do? Dulcie may imagine that they will steal their things. She may imagine that they will rape her, hurt her, and maybe even kill her. Fear knows no end. Dulcie obsesses about these possibilities. This mental movie keeps her awake and agitated and away from her job. Now when she drives down the road, she thinks about guns. She reads articles and memorizes statistics about how many people own guns. The man in the car next probably has one, Dulcie imagines. The woman at the market most assuredly carries one in her purse. Guns are everywhere, at least in Dulcie’s mind.

Charles reports that he goes to work the day after the car hijacking. He has removed himself from the incident with the youths. When he comes back home, however, he discovers that Dulcie has moved things around. She can no longer sleep in the bedroom because there is a rat that makes scratching noises on the other side of the wall, and Dulcie cannot make it go away. The rat does not fit into Dulcie’s imagined world, where babies are born healthy, streets lead safely home, and rats live in garbage cans or in someone else’s home. Since Dulcie cannot remove the rat from their bedroom, she removes the bed. Charles says that Dulcie had been okay with the rat for a while. She even gave the rat a name, as if it were a pet. But since the incident with the car hijackers, Dulcie has lost it. She has too much to think about now. Her fears from the hijacking are all consuming. Now the rat is a vermin that can kill. Dulcie’s perceptions are changing. Now everything is out to get her.

Charles views the rat differently. He does not like it any better than Dulcie, but he patched up all the holes that might give it access to their apartment. This assures him that the rat will not harm them. He feels like he fixed the situation, but Dulcie insists on their finding an exterminator. Dulcie is horrified when she sees the Rod, the rat-removing guy, put on surgical gloves. In Dulcie’s mind this confirms her greatest fears, that rats are carriers of disease. In contrast, Charles comments, “This was a guy who dealt with rats every day of his life, and it didn’t seem to faze him.” Here there are three different...

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Marisa Silver Overview

Novelist and short story writer Marisa Silver is also a director of feature films.As the daughter of a director mother and a director/producer father, she came to movie-making in her early twenties when she and her sister made an independent film entitled Old Enough. Silver asked her sister, Dina, to produce the script she had written, and Dina agreed. Silver’s early film-making efforts were tinged with controversy, however. When she applied to the film-making workshop held by Robert Redford’s nonprofit Sundance workshop and was accepted, there were charges of favoritism because her father had taught marketing at the workshop and introduced his daughter with a personal letter. However, Silver responded to her critics by pointing out that at the prestigious Sundance workshop, having a famous parent does not guarantee acceptance; she was accepted on her own merits and not through cronyism, she maintained.

‘‘Still,’’ wrote John Stark in People, ‘‘there’s no denying the sisters had a head start. Marisa conferred with Hollywood screenwriters and Redford even helped her direct a scene of her movie. Dina (who accompanied her sister to Sundance) tackled the business end, taking workshops on how to produce and distribute films. When the month-long workshop was over, the Silver sisters headed to Hollywood, hoping to sell their movie. Hollywood wasn’t buying, so they returned to New York where Dina formed a limited partnership called Silverfilm to raise an additional 400,000 dollars to be used on the film.’’ The possibility of a sale to Hollywood was encouraging as the Sundance Film Festival had awarded sisters’ movie the Grand Jury Prize.

The film was ultimately released by Orion. David Denby wrote in a New York article that it ‘‘has some shrewd moments, but I wish it had been bolder.’’ It is the story of the friendship between two girls living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Lonnie (played by Sarah Boyd) is the twelve-year-old daughter of wealthy parents, and Karen (played by Rainbow Harvest) is the fourteen-year-old streetwise daughter of an Italian janitor. New Statesman writer John Coleman described the film’s detail as ‘‘exquisite’’ and called Old Enough ‘‘unassuming and not to be missed.’’

Silver next directed Vital Signs, a film about third-year medical students. The movie stars Jimmy Smits as the dean and chief of surgery. Other cast members include Laura San Giacomo, who plays a waitress putting her husband through medical school,William Devane as a surgeon, and Norma Aleandro as a cancer patient. Unfortunately, critics of the film complained that it is not very original. ‘‘The film’s very basic problem is that it...

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The Story's Focus on the Transforming Effects of Compassion and Support.

(Short Stories for Students)

Marisa Silver’s “What I Saw from Where I Stood” opens with Charles’s announcement that his wife, Dulcie, is afraid of Los Angeles...

(The entire section is 1207 words.)

The Grim World in Silver's Short Story Collection

(Short Stories for Students)

Marisa Silver’s debut collection of short stories, Babe in Paradise, is peopled by house-breakers, eavesdroppers, carjackers, baby...

(The entire section is 997 words.)

Review by Jonathan Yardley

(Short Stories for Students)

Peter and Janie, newly married, decide on impulse to leave home in Ohio and move to California. He wants to be a screenwriter, and she has...

(The entire section is 769 words.)