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After reading the short story “It’s Bad Luck to Die” by Elizabeth McCracken, I was overwhelmed with emotion. From the beginning of the story I was compelled by the colorful description, and by the end I felt that McCracken had conveyed her love story perfectly as to evoke emotion from the reader. I particularly noticed the theme of a connection with the past. From the beginning the reader is brought into Lois’ memory of meeting Tiny, her future husband who is a tattoo artist,  for the first time. This memory introduces her cousin, Babs, who plays to be fearless enough to get a tattoo while Lois is hesitant. The memory is used later when Lois and her cousin have an outing with Lois’ mother. Since the opening memory, Lois has become completely covered in tattoos by the hand of her husband. Lois sees how Babs has completely transformed into adulthood as a woman who looks merely on that previously mentioned memory of getting a tattoo as a moment of naïve adolescence. The tattoo marks that moment and so Babs continues to cover the tattoo out of embarrassment.

While Lois and Babs both share this connection with the past, they have both branched out from that moment in completely different ways. That memory for Lois has become a love story that includes her entire body being covered with tattoos. For Lois, the tattoos have become a connection to the past, much like Babs. However, for Lois the tattoos are a way to preserve the story of Tiny and herself. “I got a letter from a young man on the coast,” she says, “a tattooist who said that Tiny was a great artist and that I was proof of it…I told him that…I am not a museum, not yet, I’m a love letter, a love letter” (22). Lois had a love story to preserve for as long as she lived that would connect her, respectively, to her late husband. Before Tiny died, Lois always covered up her tattoos in public, and when she went to see her mother because she didn’t want others to judge her for her tattoos. After his death, she goes to work in shorts and open sleeves in order to suggest that her tattoos are not something to hide; they are a memory to preserve.

The theme of connecting with the past is also relevant in Richard Ford’s “Sweethearts.” The story involves an exploration of the past, but in a different way than McCracken’s story. Ford presents a married couple, the husband and narrator raising a child from a past relationship, the wife dealing with an ex-husband who must be delivered to jail to serve his sentence for a robbery conviction. The ex-husband is obviously still in love with this ex-wife, but once he is dropped off it is almost like turning a new beginning for  this woman and her current husband. The child represents the narrator’s connection to the past, but she also serves to introduce the idea of moving forward. Throughout the story, she elicits the kindness in each of the characters. The reader can gain the knowledge that these characters are always going to be connected to their past, and while they do not have to dwell on it, they can definitely learn from it so that they do not get into the same ill situations that they have seen others get into. While this short story was also about connections to the past like the first, it was more about characters learning from other characters and their pasts and how to move on for a better future.

 

 

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