The short story is a narration of one man who makes a series of wrong questionable judgment and the decisions taken seem to compound his error such that he ends up being imprisoned. The story begins with a statement that directs the reader from the beginning, depicting that ones action will eventually lead to a result of what one becomes. Who I am is just the habit of what I always was, and who Ill be is the result. The narrator is a man that has taken to impulse decision-making, and without the advantage of thinking through, he misses the red flags in the journey he takes.
Erdrich brings the narrator to life in the short story, though it is through indirect methods. The narrators actions, as well as his inner thoughts, have been crucial in making the man more life-like, and the reader can see the narrator as an individual who can be alive rather than just being fictional, someone, the reader can associate with or has encountered in the non-fictional world. The physical attributes, actions, thoughts, reactions, emotions, attitudes, relations, as well as speech, are used by Erdrich in the plot to characterize the narrator.
In the beginning, the narrator is in a store, with his purchase together with the toucan, which he plans to buy as a Christmas gift. It is an everyday chore for many of the readers. His irrational decision to walk from the store with a toucan without actually purchasing it especially just for the sake of seeing the reaction that will occur afterward leaves the reader a tad shocked. His actions are motivated by impulse behavior and the fact that he later blames his girlfriend, who is now a former girlfriend for his action, cements his behavior to be irrational at best. The action is emphasized by the fact that he has the money to buy a gift for her but does not purchase the toucan but rather steals it from the store.
He is also irrational in his decision to throw off the lady who clung to the car, despite the danger involved in the act. Furthermore, she was the owner of the car. Upon realization that there was a baby in the car, it would have been best to turn around and return the child to the mother. His creates even further emotionally distance with the baby when he leaves him in the white car in the snowstorm, which makes the chances of the baby being discovered lesser.
From the thoughts of the narrator, the reader can tell which things or events the narrator likes and dislikes. For example, he expresses that mid-winter weather is one of his favorite days. Further in his impulse adventure, he admits that he is good at driving in the snow though he needs his concentration at such times. The narrator is depicted to dislike babies, in particular, the baby strapped to the back seat of the car he stole. It may because the baby came between him using the car and his destination but he repeatedly calls the baby it in a dislike manner, and he also insults the child. His thoughts when he is imprisoned are of pride to have traumatized the young boy. He is proud of himself for the impression he left upon the boy, comparing the feeling the boy and he have to be similar, like ice in the heart. He also has a dislike for the cheating going on in the fairgrounds and as such he could not have won such a gift for his girlfriend even though they had gone to the fair show.
The relations of the narrator are also crucial to his characterization. He has a family, and he has different feelings towards each of them. The narrator has an air of nonchalance with his parents, showing that they may not be a very close-knit family, although he is close to his sister. When deciding where to go, he is quick to negate the thought of going to his parents farm. He also had a girlfriend in the past who had lived in Fargo with him, but has now moved to the South, with an older man. He feels hurt that his former girlfriend has moved forward with her life while he still thinks of her as a current girlfriend. The man is regretful of the things he did not do with her, like going to the fair and winning her one of the toucan on display. He is also having thoughts about the plan he hatched to go to see her, preferring to have just sent her a wrapped gift of chocolate.
The author has explicitly used several modes to characterize the narrator, who is a young man who is emotionally attached to his former girlfriend. He is a man who has chosen to steal a toucan for the purpose of seeing the reaction of the people around, even though it reminded him of his former girlfriend. His then steals a car to escape the mob of people only to discover that he also has a baby who wails for his mother. He lacks any compassion for the child and insults him for crying when he needed his concentration. He further leaves the child in a white car in a snow storm, showing his lack of concern. His self-pride, self-righteousness, and arrogance were his downfall.
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