Classics English Literature

Comparative Analysis of Two Stories

            The short story, ‘The Secret Lion’, by Alberto Alvaro Rios is a story of a young boy and his friend that are gradually facing the belief that they will lose everything they like in due course. The story continuously shows the loss that the boys believe they are going to face by giving a chain of events that happen in the children’s lives. The events seem start as they get to their junior high school years, when they start to hit puberty. The children have the view that they are having their good times taken away by several different people who influence their life in one way or the other and because they are growing up. The sad part in their view is that it is not by their own fault. Symbolically, the author uses the lions roar to show the feeling that the children get when they go through this ordeal (Kirszner & Mandell, 1994).

David Kaplan, the author of ‘Doe Season’, narrates a story of a young girl called Andy and her family, specifically her dad. He tells the story of a hunting trip to the woods that Andy, her father, her father’s friend Mac and his son Charlie go to and using symbolism, shows how Andy undergoes the rite of passage to womanhood (Kaplan, 1994). The author shows how Andy’s stages of passage happen and uses symbols of darkness, shooting of the deer and the dream she gets and the way she changes her name in the end to Andrea. Through her actions within the story, we see how she is becoming more and more independent and acquires confidence and responsibility. We also see her emulate her father in several instances.

There are three symbols used in the story ‘The Secret Lion’: the lion, a secret lion to be precise; the arroyo, which is a river; and a grinding ball. The symbols in the story “Doe Season” are three in number and they include the darkness she encounters; how she shoots the deer and the dream she gets about the deer; and the name changing she does at the end of the story. The lion, or rather the secret lion, in ‘The Secret Lion’ is not an actual lion. The author uses the lion to symbolize the things that the boys go through, the way they are highly incomprehensible and their humongous size. The boys are going through a stage or stages in their life where many changes are happening and the society even the people who they take to be close to them like their mothers, appear to be turning against them. The use of the lions roar as an analogy is seen and the narrator says that he experiences something that he did not have a name for when he was aged twelve (May, 2004).

He compares it to the lion and its roar and says that even when a lion roars it remains unspoken of and thus just like the agony and confusion they experience when they are coming of age. The secret aspect of the lion represents the ambiguous nature of the change that the boys are experiencing. Similarly, in the story ‘The Doe Season’, the girl Andy’s unknowingness state is represented by the darkness that she encounters as she goes to fetch wood for making the dinner fire. She also has an unknowing state when she goes to the hunting trip with her father since she did not know what she would find there and they leave at night for the trip and get there in the morning, the night here symbolizing the unknowing state. The woods where they go hunting are also symbolic of her unknowingness due to the mysterious nature of forests (Costello, 1996). Her unknowing state is about how Andy does not know what life has in store for her in her road to womanhood.

The river arroyo that the boys frequent is the only place where they were not supposed to go to. It was the forbidden place according to their mother, but to them, it was a free place and where they could be themselves without having to face the change that was caving in on their world. It was the place where they could stage their rebellion and do what they are not supposed to do and say what they were not supposed to say. They went there because they were told not to go and thus rebelled. Their ageing comes with rebellion and the arroyo symbolizes the way and the place they rebel. The river also is symbolic of a very important theme of the story, that it symbolizes the experiences that the boys shall go thru before they are grown up and the changing of their acuity of life. The river will always remain the same unlike their view of it that shall change to a more mature one.

Similarly, in ‘The Doe Season’ we see symbolism being used in reference to the changes that Andy is going to go through. As they go to the woods, it is symbolic of her journey into the many unknowns and ambiguities, represented by the woods, she shall experience in her journey towards womanhood. Their departure before dawn and their arrival after dawn is symbolic of the change that she is going to experience and the new experiences that will follow, as we see her growing as the story continues. We see her carrying her own bag and telling Charlie’s father that she can carry his any day. This is symbolic of her gradual maturity and independence that she is gaining. We see Andy offering to go and fetch firewood at night alone, which also indicates maturity and independence (Costello, 1996).

The grinding ball, as the author symbolically shows, is a perfect example of the boys’ lives. It is their belief that the grinding ball is the most perfect thing on this earth. However, as time goes and their mature minds come into play, they realize that their self-proclaimed heaven was just but a golf course and the river arroyo was not a permanent river. This was symbolical in that the boys realize that they cannot stay children forever. They came to realize what golf was and they now saw it as a game for old men and since they played it on the golf course that was their heaven; they view the heaven as just a place where some old retired men hit a small ball into a small hole using a stick. This is symbolic for just how the boys’ view of life and the things they valued has changed due to their coming of age. The three items, the grinding ball, the arroyo and the golf course show the paradoxical discoveries that young ones make when they abandon their childish perspectives and acquire a new perception of the world and with a new understanding.

Just like the boys, Andy is seen to get to her stage of realizing that she is growing up after she shoots the deer and later that night gets a dream that had the same deer. The experience she gets symbolizes that she is in the middle of her journey to maturity. The deer’s wound and the rushing blood that comes out of the wound when she pulls out her hand, symbolize the menstruation that is the sign of becoming a woman. The way Andy’s hand sticks in the deer’s wound represents being stuck in womanhood. When a young lady gets to womanhood, it is impossible to leave and one can say that the young woman is stuck there. The start of menstruation is a great test for her and each young lady at that stage handles the trial in the best way she shall think of. After Andy saw her dad and Charlie’s dad gutting the deer, she runs away and did not respond to her name anymore. Her womanhood, one that was just attained, dictated that she change her name to Andrea (Williford & Martone, 2008).

‘The Secret Lion’ is a story of the coming to age of two boys who are very good friends. It shows how they come to reach adulthood after going through three major stages, the secret lion, the river arroyo and the grinding ball. Rios shows how the elements or stages are symbolic in the boys’ journey to manhood. He uses the secret lion to symbolize the unknown and large experience that was at hand for the boys in their road to adulthood. Rios uses the river arroyo to show the rebellion the boys put up towards the change that they are about to experience. They are somehow afraid and they are adamant to accept the change since it deprives them of their peace. The grinding stone is symbolic for when they finally hit maturity and their comprehension of things and situations changes.

‘The Doe Season’ is the story of a girl’s journey towards womanhood. She goes through stages that are seen to be rites of passage and they happen in three stages, the unknown part, the trial and the acquiring of knowledge. Kaplan clearly elaborates on the three parts and he uses them in form o symbols to take Andy from a girl to a woman. He uses darkness to symbolize or stand for the unknown state that Andy was in since she did not know what was ahead of her in the woods when they go hunting. Kaplan uses the deer shooting and the Andy’s dream of the deer symbolically to show the trial that Andy had to go through before she could officially hit womanhood. The dream is symbolic to show the actual entrance into the womanhood by showing the wound and the blood symbolizing menstruation. At the end of the story, the name changing symbolizes the completion of the rite of passage and officially acquiring the womanhood stature (May, 2004).

Both stories talk about the growing up of children and both use symbolism to show the various stages that the children go through before they reach the stage of being called adults. Both stories show the children being in their natural environment and they are around their parents. Apart from showing symbolism in expressing views, the story secret lion also has irony in it. Irony is used to develop the theme while laying emphasis on all the important points that the author makes. Irony in the story is depicted where the use of symbolism shows the ironical discoveries that the youngsters make when they change their childish perspectives and have different opinions of their world. Rios uses irony in ‘The Secret Lion’ evidently in a number of ways as the story of the coming of age of the youngsters unfolds.

In the course of the recurring use of convincing symbolism, Rios adds irony in the plot of the story in order to accentuate and embellish the difficult journey adolescents make into adulthood. More outstandingly, the author’s use of irony shows how this growing up process changes the child’s perspectives forever. Irony adds weight to the principal theme in ‘The Secret Lion’ that changes in life are unavoidable, and that this change is mostly accompanied by loss. We see Andy viewing the woods first as a place of comfort and solace since they are just a short distance from her mother. She sees their home as being on the other side of the woods. When Mac mentions Canada being nearby, she denies the claim thinking that a foreign country could not possibly be that near the woods. She is closer to her father and this is why she even takes the trip with her dad. We see the use of symbolism again as she sees the ocean and gets afraid. She sees the ocean as a huge and mysterious expanse where everything is hidden. The author compares it to the adulthood that she is about to face after the hunting trip.

Each experience that Andy goes through is seen to be a gradual loss of her innocence. Every element of symbolism used is to show her gradual loss of innocence. She is slow and defiant to accept but finally through the reality of seeing death, accepts that life has to have the three basic stages of birth, life and the painful reality of death. Similarly, for the boys, their experiences are all symbolic of the loss of innocence and the harsh reality of growing older and acquiring responsibility. The boys feel bad when they are no longer treated like children and a lot more is suddenly expected from them by their immediate society (Williford & Martone, 2008).

In retrospect, the process of growth of children up to the stage of maturity and adulthood is a long process and is filled with many confusing experiences. It is usually met with resistance that each individual faces more and more as he or she grows older. However with age comes experience and one starts to view his or her experiences differently. Such experiences, coupled with the advice one receives from those who are older guides the individual to the gradual process of acceptance. In most cases, therefore, an unforgettable experience inaugurates one into adulthood.

Work Cited

Costello, Karin Bergstrom. Gendered voices: readings from the American experience. Toronto, ON: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996. Print.

Kirszner, Laurie G. and Stephen R. Mandell. Fiction: Reading, Reacting, Writing. New York, NY: Paulinas, 1994. Print.

Kirszner, Laurie G., and Mandell, Stephen R. Literature: reading, reacting, writing. New York NY: Thomson/Heinle, 2004. Print.

May, Charles E. Masterplots II.: Two-Z. Spruce Pine, North Carolina: Salem Press, 2004. Print.

Williford, Lex, and Michael Martone. The Scribner anthology of contemporary short fiction: fifty North American stories since 1970. Gulf Shores, Alabama: Simon & Schuster, 2008. Print.


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