Name Instructor Class 11 March 2013 Identity and Happiness in Canty’s “Mayfly” Life is a cycle of finding one’s identity and happiness, but sometimes, it can be such a short cycle, beginning and ending too soon. Kevin Canty’s “Mayfly” describes issues of identity and happiness from James’ standpoint…
Life is as temporary as a mayfly’s life, but happiness is shorter when people lack the freedom and autonomy to express their real identity to themselves and their loved ones. The point of view of the story comes from James and it helps to shape the story’s focus because it shows his struggles in finding his identity and happiness. A third-person point of view that emphasizes one person’s perspective takes readers deep into his subconscious, where his conflicts arise and become unresolved. It shows that James cannot control his life because he cannot make autonomous choices, such as when he thinks that he does not have to explain to Molly why they should drive through the wave of monarchs: “Let Molly figure it out for herself” (Canty 65). The significance of this thought is that he wants Molly to understand on her own that their relationship is not helping them grow as individuals, but the verbal and dramatic irony is that he also cannot figure out what to do with his life. Furthermore, James’ perspective reveals his most intimate thoughts and opinions in life, which he does not always openly express to people who need to hear them the most. James finds Molly’s environmentalism annoying because of her impractical oversentimentality. She cries over dead butterflies, but she cannot stop smoking and find a stable job: “But James didn’t see how someone would hire her, with her smudgy eyes, her so-so-record” (Canty 65). She is a paradox, an environmentalist who cannot protect her own health and promote her own welfare. Another example is how James feels about Sam and Molly. For him, they are the same: “The two of them had the same knack for finding a sore spot and then poking it” (Canty 66), but he does not say anything and sips his beer instead. The people who need to hear his opinions do not hear them, so that they can change, hopefully, in the process of honest communication. James’ viewpoint, especially the absence of his voice, indicates his lack of self in the midst of people who impose themselves on his life. Aside from the viewpoint, the setting of the story enhances it by affirming its themes because it is something temporary, but is about long-term human relations and its role in their happiness. The setting of a married home suggests James’ apprehension of and hopes for marriage. James wants to have Sam and Jenny to have a happy marriage because it is the next stage of his life and relationship with Molly, but he has seen from Jenny’s infidelity that marriage is not all butterflies, but is one large mayfly with constant dissatisfaction: “It doesn’t sound like bliss” (Canty 68). Mayflies die fast, and so does happiness from marriage. Fishing is another setting that is temporary. For James and his father, fishing is their ultimate distraction from life’s miseries: “This was when his father would break out a Roll-A-Table and the cooler and set them up with sandwiches and beer...” (Canty 66). They had fun, but it became shorter and shorter after James’ mother died. Her death ended his father’s life to: “His father had seemed to lose his appetite for everything...All but the drinking” (Canty 66). His father turned into a hollow shell and lost his will to be happy. The setting underscores life’s irony that sometimes, long-term human relations cause despair, not happiness. Plot is another element ...
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