Essay - Lauren Berry November 5 2009 English 298 Johnson...

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Lauren Berry November 5, 2009 English 298: Johnson “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes” In the short story, "Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes", J.D. Salinger uses dialog to divulge what the story is about and to characterize Joanie, Lee, and Arthur. Salinger uses direct and indirect methods to describe and exemplify each character through the conversations between them. These characterizations articulate what the story is really about: deceitfulness, weakness, betrayal and power. “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes” is narrated as phone conversations between Lee and Arthur while Joanie listens as she lounges on the bed. Arthur’s anxious, fast-paced dialog is countered by Lee’s steady, paternal-like language. This opposition in dialog reveals the underlying lie that has tipped the balance between the two men. Salinger uses the distinguished “gray haired” (174) gentleman versus the unstable, explosive younger man to expose the truth. The three characters are most powerfully characterized throughout the story by their dishonesty. As the dialog progresses in the story the plot unfolds and the truth is revealed. The author cleverly begins the story with a phone call from Arthur, an anxious and betrayed husband, to his friend Lee, an older and wiser friend. Both Arthur and Lee are characterized through direct method within their dishonest phone conversations. At the beginning and throughout the majority of the story, the dialog between the two suggests that Lee, the paternal figure, holds the control. He speaks in a measured, calm voice as he directs the flailing Arthur to “relax” (178) and to “sit tight” (178). Salinger describes Lee as a “gray haired man” (174), thus stressing his old age and maturity. Arthur’s voice, “stone dead and almost obscenely quickened for the occasion” (175), is contrasted immediately with Lee’s strong, “resonant” (175) voice. Initially, the dialog tells a simple story of a weak, irrational man betrayed by his wife who seeks comfort and advice from an older, wiser friend. But, as the story develops and the dialog continues, the plot becomes more complex and the 1
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dishonesty of all three characters is revealed. Arthur regains power and control by exposing Lee’s betrayal in his second phone conversation and further establishes Joanie’s immoral behavior. The seemingly simple story of a husband betrayed is overshadowed by the twisted lies and shifting power amongst the three characters. Arthur claims he is “losing his mind” (179) and Lee strikes back with the direction to “relax” (178). This exchange is repeated numerous times throughout the text. The dialog form of repetition is used to illustrate the imbalance in the relationship between Arthur and Lee. Each man is trying to tip the balance to himself but the conversation is disjointed and so the power keeps moving. Both men repeatedly interrupt each other over and over throughout their conversation. Unable to let the counterpart finish his train of thought, the other man finishes the statement to what
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Essay - Lauren Berry November 5 2009 English 298 Johnson...

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