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September 08, 2005

Foster, How to Read Literature Like a Professor Intro through p. 22 -- Drama as Literature (EL 250)

“…writing a meal scene is so difficult, and so inherently uninteresting, that there really needs to be some compelling reason to include it in the story. And that reason has to do with how the characters are getting along. Or not getting along.” - Foster, How to Read Literature Like a Professor

“And this is gonna be the last time, right? You’re not planning to keep this up all summer,are you?” -Lee, Heart in the Ground

Foster’s quote made me realize how powerful the scene in Heart in the Ground is when Lee and Karen are at the dinner table. I think he is right, an author does need a purpose to include a meal scene in a story. And I think this one in Heart in the Ground is a great example of one. The simple act of buttering bread shows the tenseness of the scene and also how differently the actors react to something that bothers them. Lee, who is angry at Karen for burying their child over and over again, is obviously tense and when takes a square edge of butter and tries to butter the bread. Inevitably, the force from his tense fingers tear the bread and he becomes annoyed, “[tossing] it to the table”. Karen, on the other hand, takes a more unorthodox approach by “[scraping] her knife across the top of the bread”. The bread does not tear and she hands it straight to Lee. The author puts this seemingly unimportant bread scene in, but after reading chapter two in Foster’s book, I realized the scene was actually quite important.

Posted by AmandaNichols at September 8, 2005 07:35 PM


Good call -- instead of eating the bread (which would be a kind of insult) Karen hands it to Lee. This action shows that she's not selfish, which leads our later understanding that her actions are motivated by grief, not by some selfish obsession.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 8, 2005 09:30 PM

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