Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Hard-luck Story

All stories have some kind of end-game goal, some intended effect on the hearer/reader. Is it laughter? Perhaps the author's intent is education, or irony, or reversal. Perhaps the narrative is offered in self-defense, or the adjunct of self-defense, excuse. As long as we're dwelling on the conditional perhaps, might be the intent of a story is to make the teller sound modest--moi?--or resourceful.

Surely one of the more plentiful among dramatic narratives is the hard-luck story or its close relative, the sob story. The purpose is to evoke or elicit sympathy for the teller, both in the nature of troubles piled on and in the way the load is borne by the forces of Nature and natural disaster.

You could say--and probably will, once you think about it--that The Book of Job is the classic hard-luck story, not only because of the trials visited upon Job but as well because of the capricious nature of the way the visitation was set in motion. Job happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, when those polar representations of The Cosmic Forces got into a bragging and betting mood.

In more modern times, you could argue that an archetypal hard-luck story is found in a heavy contributor to Republican politics, being given a chance to go hunting with the Vice President of the United States. We all know how that turned out. That poor man will be known throughout history as the man who went bird hunting with the Veep. In Texas, where the incident took place, Republican school children will be allowed to stay home from school on the anniversary of that day, and boys with aggressive cases of facial zits will be able to say, "I went dove hunting with Dick Cheyney."

You could also, if you wanted, put the majority of Americans of voting age as players in a hard-luck story because it is our hard luck to have at the helm of the ship of state a man more like Captain Ahab than the President of the United States, although there are those who would disagree with my literary analogy, reminding me of Mary Shelley's archetypal Frankensteinas the more appropriate fit. Dr. Frankenstein represents the force behind the Vice President of the United States, a man who once was more benign than he now is, having created a monster who has attached some seven hundred fifty signing statements to bills acted into law by the Congress. Mrs. Shelley's point was a moral one, in which hubris could create a monster.

It's our hard luck story that the President of the United States, with graduate work in hubris, is in over his head and the best we can think to do in the name of conventional wisdom is to wait his term of office out.

We will nationally remain at the wrong end of a hard-luck story as long as we continue to accept our status as victim.

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