Ursula LeGuin wrote Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons? because she wanted to send out a message. She wants people to use their imaginations without going too far in a world of fantasy. LeGuin also feels that humans should be taking a mature, humane, trusting approach to the truth. Of all the short stories read in the ENG OAO class, LeGuin would appreciate By the waters of Babylon the most. LeGuin would really like the message that Willa Cather has portrayed in Paul s Case. This story shows the reader that there is a certain level of imagination, which one must not exceed. LeGuin calls this the discipline of the imagination (327).
Cather sends us this message by having Paul jump in front of a train to commit suicide at the end of the story. All of his problems were building up and he tried to avoid them, but they all came back to him and he was overwhelmed. LeGuin would like Paul s character at the beginning of the story because he allowed his mind to engage in free play, such as when he sat down before a blue Rico and lost himself (144). Later on in the story he got carried away with his imagination and he repressed reality. This is what LeGuin would not like about Paul. LeGuin would not like anything about the story Arrangement in black and white by Dorothy Parker.
The woman in this story is racist towards coloured people and she acts as if she is doing nothing wrong. She actually thinks she is doing some incredibly nice when she calls a black person Mister. Oh, wait till I tell Burton I called him Mister! (270), she tells the host. The thing that LeGuin would not like about this story is that the woman is being inhumane by not considering coloured people equal. Unlike some of the other stories, the main character in this story does not get any type of punishment for her wrongdoings (being racially prejudice), and because of this, the message in this story is not effectively revealed.
The Door in the Wall by Herbert George Wells also contains aspects that would not be to LeGuin s liking, but the things she would like about it overcome these. Wallace, the main character in this story, is the hardworking, over-thirty American male (326). His profit-mindedness causes him to repress his imagination. Wallace sees a door several times in the story, which he believes opens to a fantasy world. Because of his work ethic, he decides that his entering the door would not be right because it is completely unrelated to his career. At the end of the story, Wallace is found on the other side of the door dead.
Wallace s character would be disliked by LeGuin, however, she would like the story because it proves her theory that the rejection of fiction comes with severe negative consequences. This story conveys the message that even putting off or repressing one s imagination temporarily can be a poor choice because no one knows when life will end. In The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, the end of one s life can be determined simply by a random drawing. Every year the town has a traditional event where one person is selected at random to be killed by being hit with rocks, which are thrown by the rest of the townspeople.
This is the story that Ursula LeGuin would hate the most due to the repulsively inhumane characters. LeGuin believes in a mature, humane, trusting approach to the truth. The characters in The Lottery do nothing near this. No one in the town even knows how the tradition came about; they just ignorantly follow it. Old Man Warner says angrily, There s always been a lottery (256). This shows that the only reason everyone participates in the event is because it has always been around. They are simply following the footsteps of those before them.
Children learn from examples set from their elders, and this is made known in the story by the following quote: The children had stones already, and someone gave little Dave Hutchinson a few pebbles. (258) The story ends without punishing the inhumane characters and this makes it difficult for the reader to obtain the message that Shirley Jackson is sending out. There is no misunderstanding in the message that Stephen Vincent Benet wanted to depict when he wrote By the waters of Babylon. In the first part of young John s journey, he, as well as the reader, think that the victims of the Great Burning were Gods.
In this frame of mind, the reader wonders what could have happened to cause this annihilation. Later on in the journey, when it is realized that the Gods were in fact human beings, the reader is struck with the alarming thought of this same situation happening to our society. The reader is assured that the Gods were actually humans when John, son of John says I knew then that they had been men, neither gods nor demons. (249) LeGuin would have a significant amount of appreciation for this story. It gives the reader a shocking warning of what our current society will come to if we do not smarten up.
Benet is teaching the reader that unless all humans act civilized, that is, aiming for a mature, humane, trusting approach to the truth, then the outcome will be total destruction. The stern impact of this story gets the reader thinking about having a more humane attitude towards life. After deep analysis of all the short stories read, it can be concluded that Ursula LeGuin would prefer Stephen Vincent Benet s By the waters of Babylon above all others. This story has shown that Benet s views towards life are very similar to those of LeGuin, and because of this LeGuin would greatly appreciate this story.