April 7, 2016
Prose Intent Paper
For my prose fiction performance, I decided to perform a section from Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave. This piece of fiction originally caught my attention because of the science fiction genre (one of my favorites), as well as the interesting dystopian/alien apocalyptic plot line of the story. I chose to interpret a section from the third chapter because it highlights the interesting narration style within the story. The 5th Wave is written in first person major, and within the third chapter, there is no direct discourse whatsoever. First person major narration is typically criticized for the lack of an outside perspective within a story, therefore classifying that style as heavily biased. Although this form of narration is often seen as unreliable, I enjoy it because it allows for the tone and direction of the story to go in virtually any direction the interpreter wishes to take it.
With that being said, my interpretation of this section of The 5th Wave I chose is that the main character, Cassie, is addressing a group of human survivors that she has encountered. Up until this point of the alien apocalypse, Cassie has believed that she was the lone survivor. After surviving a mass murder by "the Others" at a refugee camp, she has been on the run to save her own life. Within this interpretation, she has reached a new refugee camp full of other survivors. Cassie is now both sharing her past and offering her advice as they prepare to defend themselves from "the Others."
As I begun to analyze my selection I further, looked into the rhythm of action of the scene. By analyzing the rhythm of action, I was able to grasp if this section of The 5th Wave would be comprised primarily of showing or telling. The selection I chose is written in scene, that is that the words and time are going at equal rates. This is usually distinguished by direct discourse. Although direct discourse is absent within my scene, the majority of this work of prose fiction is written with direct discourse. I was still able to tell that this section is scene due to the wording of narration. The first person major narrator is describing events as if they are currently happening. This can be seen by lines such as, "I took a tiny step away from the door, broken glass crunched ever so softly under my foot." By concluding that this section is a work of scene, I knew that my performance had to be both showing and telling.
I then progressed to the modal analysis to help understand the larger picture of the the story to discover why this section was occurring. As mentioned above, the narration style is first person major. Throughout a good majority of the story, characters are participating in direct discourse, therefor making the speaker mode dramatic. However, within the chapter I selected to interpret from the story, the main character Cassie is speaking through both epic and lyric moments. She not only is addressing the reader/audience directly, but she also is having personal moments of reflection and thought with herself. These modal shifts can be seen by these sets of lines; "The first rule of the 4th Wave is don't trust anyone," an epic moment where Cassie is addressing the audience, and "Either hurt badly, or acting badly hurt, I thought," which is a lyric moment where Cassie is thinking to herself.
Next, I began the dramatistic analysis, which gave me a greater insight to the main character. To answer who is speaking, the main protagonist is a young girl named Cassie, short for Cassiopeia. She believes that she is one of the few survivors on Earth during an alien apocalypse. She once had a family, but her mother died from a plague that was released, her father was killed by soldiers, and her younger brother Sammy was taken by those same soldiers. To whom Cassie is speaking to shifts throughout the story. Within the section I have selected to perform, Cassie shifts from epic to lyric moments. At times she appears to be addressing the audience directly (epic), as if guiding the reader through the apocalypse, and at other times she appears to be reflecting on her past and what she's gone through (lyric). I plan to address the audience directly during these epic moments, as if they are the survivors of the apocalypse. I next looked into where this scene was taking place. Cassie is explaining her weekly expeditions to abandoned convenience stores to replenish her stock of water. She describes the route she takes, what the abandoned gas station looks like, as well as the dangers that involves leaving her campsite to take these trips. Within my interpretation, she is describing her journey to other survivors at a refugee camp she has been welcomed into.
I moved on to evaluate why this scene within the story was taking place. Cassie is inside the abandoned convenience store she always visits to gather water, when she hears something, or someone, there with her. I chose this section because it really demonstrates the state of paranoia that Cassie is in due to her circumstances. She is in desperate need of water, but she knows she is in danger. This can be seen by her repeated internal observation that something about her environment was different — in a bad way; "I knew there was something different. I didn't see anything different. Still. Something was different." Regardless of her fear, she knows that she has to encounter whatever it is that's there waiting for her; "So I didn't run. I couldn't. I had to defend my turf." This scene demonstrates a good variety of character dynamics, as well as dramatic delineations.
The when of this moment in the story, as mentioned above, is during her expedition to replenish her water supply at an abandoned gas station. Within the larger picture of the whole story, Cassie has survived 3 waves of alien attacks on Earth, and is one of the only few survivors remaining. She is now within the 4th Wave where "the Others" are disguised as humans and kill off as many survivors as possible. The what of this scene within the story is Cassie's internal debate of choosing to encounter whatever it is that's waiting for her in the convenience store in order to get the water she needs, or to retreat and potentially save her life. She is continually contemplating if whoever is waiting for her in the store is one of "the Others" who will kill her, or a survivor who is hurt and needs her help. This can be seen from the lines, "Either it's one of them and it knows you're here or it's not one of them and he needs your help."
The what of the scene relates very closely to the how of the scene. This moment within the story is a conflicting combination of Cassie feeling fearful and panicked, but also territorial and determined. She is very unsure of what kind of danger she may be in once she identifies that something or someone is in the store with her, but she knows she must encounter it to protect her resources. She compares how alert and aware she feels within this situation to that of prey; "Buried deep in our genes the memory remains: the awareness of the gazelle, the instinct of the antelope."
After completing the dramatistic analysis, I evaluated the narrator's four levels of characterization. Physically, there is not much know about Cassie other than that she is a teenager who had a family consisting of a mother, father, and a younger brother named Sammy. She is described as short and small in stature and build, with strawberry blonde hair. Socially, Cassie has been isolated from her family, and even other humans, for several months. She has grown accustomed to living alone in a make-shift campsite, and has no one to depend on other than herself. She has learned to trust no one, because "the Others" are disguised as humans and have no problem killing anyone they see. Whenever she does encounter another person, her instincts are heightened and she is on edge — assuming that they are not human but are one of "the Others."
Psychologically, Cassie has been through a lot. She believes that she is the only survivor, or at least one of the only survivors, of the apocalypse. Cassie watched her mother die during the third wave from the Red Death, a flu-like virus that wiped out a majority of the survivors. She then watched her father get murdered by "the Others" as they raided a refugee camp, as they took her brother Sammy away from her. Although Cassie managed to escape and save herself, she had to watch everyone she loved die or be taken away from her. This has resulted in her becoming extremely closed-off and has left her with the mentality that no one can be trusted. Not only that, but Cassie lives in a never ending fear that she will meet the same fate her family did. This can be demonstrated by Cassie saying that "the 4th Wave forces us into solitude, where there no strength in numbers, where we slowly go crazy from the isolation and fear and terrible anticipation of the inevitable." Because of these feelings, Cassie now alludes to herself as prey nearly all of the time. She is always in a state of fear and/or panic, psychologically forcing her into a constant mode of defense, keeping her M16 with her 24/7. She even goes as far as to sleep with it in her sleeping bag, and saying that, "I considered the M16 my besets of besties."
Morally however, Cassie attempts to dismiss these prey-like feelings, despite what her gut instincts are telling her. Within this moment of the story, she is torn between facing what awaits her in the convenience store to stake her territory, and running to potentially save her life; "So I didn't run. I couldn't. I had to defend my turf." Because of what she's encountered in the past, especially with watching her family die or be taken from her, she always expects the worst. She is morally divided into facing what awaits her in order to get the water she needs to survive, or to run away and face death by dehydration. Both options can end up being very harmful and potentially deadly, and Cassie must decide which way she would prefer to possibly die.
Within my selection from The 5th Wave, the goal Cassie is trying to reach replenish her diminishing water supply by visiting the convenience store that her supply is kept. However, she encounters an obstacle during her endeavor. Just as she reaches the convenience store, she gets the feeling that something is different and that she is in danger; "I listened to the silence of the abandoned store, listened hard. Something was close." As she gets closer, she discovers that this obstacle standing between her and her water is a person, who appears to be badly hurt. Cassie must choose between two tactics while attempting to reach her goal. She can either abandon the store, and therefor abandon her goal of replenishing her water supply, or she can face whatever waists her in order to reach her goal. Cassie ultimately decides that her goal is worth her risking her life, and she chooses to come face to face with whatever it is that awaits her. Cassie's original expectation was that the water will be there waiting for her, as it always is, and that she will be able to gather it and return to her campsite with no problems. Once she encountered the obstacle however, her new expectation was that whatever was waiting for her where the water is, is one of "the Others." She believes that whatever, or whoever, is hiding in the store will try to kill her, so she prepares to fight back.
During rehearsal, the main obstacle I faced was spacing out the scene. There is a lot of imagery within this chapter, as well as a lot of directional suggestions from the main character. I knew I would need to strategically set up my stage to ensure that I could "fit" everything I needed to, without the stage feeling too crowded. Additionally, another issue I faced was the vocal portrayal of Cassie. She is supposed to be a woman just a couple of years younger than me, so I would imagine she has a similar voice as to what I have. For my interpretation, I decided to have a harder, harsher, and more emotionless voice than my own. I chose to do this because I believe that after surviving an alien apocalypse and losing all of your friends and family, you wouldn't be inclined to sounding chipper and emotional while speaking.
By understanding the rhythm of action as scene, I was able to realize that my performance needed to be equal showing as telling. The modal and dramatistic analysis allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the narrator — primarily her motives behind her communication, and well as how she chose to communicate. By exploring the four levels of characterization of Cassie, I was able to gain more of an understanding of the type of person she is. Although there is not much information on her physically or socially, I was able to discover a lot about her psychologically and morally, which had the most effect on the scene I selected. Analyzing the goals, obstacles, tactics and expectations of this chapter of The 5th Wave allowed for an understanding of why Cassie is doing what she's doing, as well as how she chose to do so. Using these analytical tools, I was able to provide myself a better understanding of the chapter, as well as The 5th Wave as a whole.