Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Short Story "Bluffing"...


Genre:             Contemporary Realistic Fiction.

Setting:            The story has been set in and around Jasper National Hospital and Jasper National Park.

Characters:     Gabriella (Biology Teacher).
                        Liam (A Tourist Guide).

Author:           Gail Helgason.

‘Bluffing’ deals with the relationship of two twenty – something people and an encounter they have with a grizzly bear in Canada’s Jasper National Park. The story provides excellent examples of the use of flashback and foreshadowing.

The story consists of five scenes, which alternate from the present, where Gabriella is waiting to see Liam in the hospital, to the past scenes set three weeks earlier at a remote lake in Canada’s Jasper National Park. Much of what happens at the lake is foreshadowed in earlier scenes.

Theme of the Story:

Commitment in family life and adult relationship is the most prominent theme of the story. It also presents a picture of degrading and weakening commitment in relationship and family life in the western culture and society. Besides it hints towards the inherent dangers in trekking and hiking and indirectly warns the reader not to venture on such expeditions unprepared. The language is modern, the characters realistic, and the style is contemporary.

Technique used:         Flashback & Foreshadowing.


·        A device that shifts the narrative from the present to the past, usually to reveal a change in character or illustrate an important point.

·        A device that allows the writer to present events that happened before the time of the current narration or the current events in the fiction. Flashback techniques include memories, dreams, stories of the past told by characters, or even authorial sovereignty. (That is, the author might simply say, "But back in Tom's youth. . . .") Flashback is useful for exposition, to fill in the reader about a character or place, or about the background to a conflict.


ü  Shows a change in character or situation.
ü  Builds suspense.
ü  Illustrates an important point.
ü  Makes the story interesting.


ü  Makes the scenes in the story unclear.
ü  Creates confusion in the minds of the readers. The readers may lose track.


·        It refers to plot technique in which a writer plans clues that hints at what is going to happen later in the plot. Foreshadowing is used to arouse reader’s curiosity, build suspense, and help prepare the reader to accept events that occur later in the story.


ü  Arouses curiosity and builds suspense.
ü  Prepares the readers to accept events that occur later in the story.


ü  Spoils the order of the story.
ü  Confuses the reader.
ü  Most often the clues of foreshadowing are not clear.

Examples of Flashback used in the story:

·        In the hospital when medicinal smell reminds Gabriella of the homemade cleaning solution she prepared at Liam’s insistence.
·        While waiting in the hospital couch, she remembers the morning three weeks ago when she and Liam had taken a hike to the lake.
·        When she sees the Merlin from the hospital window it reminds her of how she had taught Liam to spot wildlife at the Pyramid Bench. Etc.

Examples of Foreshadow used in the story:

·        In the beginning when Gabriella is running to the Jasper Hospital, the reader doesn’t know why she is going there it arouses curiosity in the reader to read further to know more.
·        The partial imprints of expensive trademark left by Liam’s boots on the ground leads us to understand that he is extravagant.
·        “That wasn’t the same as telling the whole story. How could she, when it still wasn’t clear?” It gives the readers a clue that there is something believed in the story.
·        Liam’s bluff to the two young hikers about the Grizzly. Etc.


 A mode of expression, through words (verbal irony) or events (irony of situation), conveying a reality different from and usually opposite to appearance or expectation. A writer may say the opposite of what he means, create a reversal between expectation and its fulfillment, or give the audience knowledge that a character lacks, making the character's words have meaning to the audience not perceived by the character. In verbal irony, the writer's meaning or even his attitude may be different from what he says:

Conflict:         Gabriella versus Liam - Man versus Man
Gabriella versus Gabriella - Man versus Man [Self]
Liam and Gabriella versus the Grizzly - Man versus Nature

Point of view:          Third person limited. It is limited to Gabriella and anything known about Liam is filtered through Gabriella’s perceptions.

Plot summary of the Story:

The story primarily deals with the theme of commitment in relationship and in family life. The story is about Liam and Gabriella who are staying together in relationship. Gabriella and Liam are living together in the same rented house, though not married. Gabriella is a teacher who can’t afford to rent the house all by her. The rent is high and for time being, she can make both ends meet as, Liam is sharing the rent with her. However, Liam’s stay with her is uncertain as most of the time he is away on hiking expeditions. Moreover, the time has come for Gabriella to sign a lease as a tenant for one more year. The land owner holds her responsible for signing the lease. She needs commitment from Liam to stay with her and share the rent for another one year at least. She is hesitant to ask him directly in the crowded place where they are staying. Gabriella wants some privacy where she can freely talk to Liam and know his further plan. So she arranges a hike with Liam to Jasper Lake.
Liam is unpredictable and a difficult person to understand. Gabriella on the other hand is committed in the beginning and wants to continue her living with Liam. But it is one sided. Their relationship can’t be strong unless there is commitment from both the sides. At time Gabriella feels Liam is coming closer to her through his activities such as giving astonishing surprises for her. She is encouraged further when Liam consents to go for the hike along with her for the day.
The day they start hiking towards the lake, everything seems to be conducive. As they mount upward towards the lake they are thrilled by the sight of the valley down below. Gabriella teaches Liam about wild life, they see on the way. Liam, though an egoist starts learning a great deal about wild life, the day he associated himself with Gabriella. The duo have few amazing experiences as they ascend: Liam bluffs and discourages tourists the young tourists form going to the lake. The youngsters are frightened when they are informed that the lake is infested with Grizzly bears. This was the false alarm given by Liam as he didn’t want to be disturbed by anyone, once they reach the lake.

Both reach the lake by noon and settle down for lunch. Liam gives a pleasant surprise to Gabriella by taking out some scrumptious food items from his lunch pack. Gabriella to intends to surprise him with egg sandwiches, she has brought. Gabriella is encouraged by all the favorable things she experiences at this juncture. Just the, Liam discloses his plan to go to South Mexico along with Clive for three months during winter. This news shattered her dreams of signing the lease accord. Gabriella starts feeling helpless and is angry. Annoyed, she simply walks away without uttering a word to Liam. At one instance she turns back and spots Liam pursuing her. Gabriella doesn’t pay any heed to him and keeps on walking until she comes face to face with a Grizzly bear standing just twenty paces away. Meanwhile Liam unaware of the situation approaches from behind and calls her.

Gabriella cautions him not to come forward but to go back as slowly as possible. She freezes in the same spot. The Grizzly watches her movements. Gabriella knows that if she runs, the Grizzly will come and pounce upon her. At no cost she could afford to do this. Liam on the other hand, didn’t listen to her and starts retreating. The bear instead of pouncing on Gabriella started pursuing Liam. She on the other hand thought the bear was coming straight for her. Gabriella fell on the ground and bundled herself in order to protect her vital organs, where upon she only felt the bear hurtling past her. The rest of the story remained unknown to her until she met Liam.

Later she came to know that Liam had been attacked by the bear. He had been airlifted and hospitalized. No major damage had been done to his vital organs. However his face was badly bruised with plenty of cuts all over his face and body. Liam was under medication for three weeks. After three weeks when Gabriella when to the hospital to meet Liam, his bandage was to be removed. Finally, when Gabriella sees Liam’s face she was horrified by the sight and was unable to look straight into his face. Liam puts a false smile on his face and says that had sacrificed his life for her. Gabriella on the other hand feels he is bluffing. She too keeps smiling at him as long as she was present there. This she does in order to make him believe that inwardly she is hurt and had no faith in him. Gabriella pays backs Liam’s insincerity by simply smiling as a mere formality.

The whole story boils down to the commitment, sincerity, and attitude of young couple before marriage. Commitment plays an important role in the life of young couples. In this story we don’t see any commitment either on the part of Liam or Gabriella. Such couples can never make their marital life meaningful.

Themes Explored in the Story:

Commitment in family life and adult relationship is the most prominent theme of the story. It also presents a picture of degrading and weakening commitment in relationship and family life in the western culture and society. Besides it hints towards the inherent dangers in trekking and hiking and indirectly warns the reader not to venture on such expeditions unprepared.

Justification of the Title:

Literally, Bluffing means and act of pretension and trying to show something different from the reality. In other words it can also be explained as deceiving someone by pretending. A careful analysis of the story reveals that it is full with bluffing. Both the major characters – Liam and Gabriella – are bluffing to each other in the story .Gabriella bluffed Liam by saying that she liked hiking in order to take him to lake so that she could discuss about the lease renewal. On the way to Lake Liam bluffed those two young men by telling the false story about the Grizzly which had killed an Elk. We find Gabriella bluffing to the safety specialists though she herself was not very clear about all that had happened at the lake. Again we find her bluffing to some extent when she says that she was coming to the hospital to see Liam every day. Knowing that she was a teacher and that Liam could not have been sleeping all three weeks we cannot fully believe that she was coming every day.

And finally we find Liam bluffing to Gabriella that he had run away to gain the attention of the grizzly and save her from the attack. We cannot be fully convinced whether he is bluffing or telling the truth. Maybe he did as he claimed or maybe he is simply bluffing. But we see the height of bluffing when we find Gabriella pulling her chair close to Liam, hold his hand and give him a broad smile though she is finds it very difficult to believe what Liam had said and also to bear the sight of his horribly scarred face. Thus we see that the whole story is filled with bluffing of various kinds and degrees and hence the title of this story is very much suitable to its content and theme.