The Indian Uprising (A Critique)
Any author's primary goal in story writing is to convey an idea or topic to their reading audience. The conventional wisdom on this thought is that the clearer this is conveyed, the greater the appeal to the reader. However, some authors feel the need to resist this trend and forge new paths that sometime leaves the meanings of their stories obscure and hidden from the average reader. Donald Barthelme has taken this optional approach with his story "The Indian Uprising". There are several reasons that I did not fully enjoy this post-colonial short story. One, its "point" is vague and this is a challenge to my current reading abilities and two, it rambles along its disjointed timeline to the point that I became easily lost. However, there is something that the story brought to light that I am now more fully aware of than before reading this story. That is my own abilities of intellectual analysis. It is these areas that I wish to elaborate upon.
Donald Barthelme's deliberate twisting of the subtleties in meaning in his story is intriguing. However, as a recent popular movie so elegantly put it, it left me dazed and confused. I couldn't seem to figure out what the point or moral of the story should be. Was this a story of a battle between cowboys and Indians, as it suggests in its title? The story starts off leading you to take this as a real possibility with lines such as "We defended the city as best we could. The arrows of the Comanches came in clouds."(123). Or was it a story of love set in the time of war? "...we issued entrenching tools to those who seemed trustworthy and turned the heavy-weapons companies so that we could not be surprised from that direction. And I sat there getting drunker and drunker and more in love and more in love." (124). Although the story bounces between these two main "insinuations", it is never clear to me what or who the story is about and I found this to be an unfulfilling reading. In retrospect my previous readings of literature have been more of the atypical writing style. One that leaves you comfortable and secure and without guesswork "The Indian Uprising" avoids this style at all cost. The author's intent on writing in the style of a collage, although fascinating, is very confusing. I will be the first to admit I'm not the most avid of readers, but having to read a story two or even three times and still not fully perceiving its meaning made it an even more arduous read. Barthelme bounced from what I thought was one topic to yet another without rhyme or reason:
"We attached wires to the testicles of the captured Commanche. ... When we threw the switch he spoke. His name, he said, was Gustave Aschenbach. He was born at L_____, a country town in the province of Silesia. He was the son of an upper class official in the judicature, and his forbears had all been officers, judges, departmental functionaries...And you can never touch a girl in the same way more than once , twice, or another of times however much you may wish to hold, wrap or otherwise fix her hand..." (127)
As you can see we've gone from a scene of torture to a statement on how you can never touch a girl in the same way twice. I was constantly grabbing for coherence in this story but not finding it. It was an academic torture and as hard as I tried and as much as I wanted to find meaning, I simply could not. Mr. Barthelme did succeed in one aspect of his writing that I wasn't expecting.
He succeeded in showing me my weakness in my mental processes and structures. This paper was intended to be a scathing review of Mr. Barthelme's writing style and how I hated reading this story, to some degree it is, but not to the degree originally intended. I can honestly say that I felt threatened by something I didn't understand something that challenged my current thoughts and ideas on the way things should be arranged. Barthelme's