Breaking Convention

In thinking about our conversation surrounding language, uniqueness, and meaning, I found the story entitled “Spectator” as an interesting example of how language can take the uniqueness out of an experience because of the signifying words. On page 118, Steinberg writes “I was just a girl and blank happened once; and blank happened twice; and blank was said; and blank was felt; and blank would be dealt with eventually;” This mysterious “blank” could be substituted for a a number of experiences, however I think there is even more reason behind using “blank.” Emotions, other actions, and impressions surround the experiences we have; can all of these things be tied up in one word? For one person, maybe, but my emotions surrounding an experience will be different than those felt by someone else in a similar or the same situation. By using “blank” and not an actual event, adjective, or emotion, Steinberg breaks our conventional desire to see through the author’s (or narrator’s; character’s) eyes and challenges us to choose our own signifiers. 

Additionally, Steinberg challenges this desire further through how she writes the end of the book, and the end of the story “Universal:” “But it was surefire, my technique…You want me to say you’re not a mess…You want me to say there is a God…But what if I say you have no soul…And what if I’m right.” (135) This is both brilliant and terrifying to me. In the search to relate and potentially empathize with the author (and/or narrator); in the desire to see someone who is more of a mess and for reassurance that “everything will be okay,” Steinberg destroys that notion and ends her story by creating an unease and discomfort within the reader (at least for me), and really challenges the conventional “everyone has their problems/you’re not alone” idea. 

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