March 26, 2017
The Blue Bouquet
I chose The Blue Bouquet by Octavio Paz for my prose performance because it is a deliciously fun and thrilling story that could be interpreted in various ways to a variety of audiences. As the most important speaker in any prose fiction is the narrator and the narrators personality and attitude are the most important aspects of prose fiction to convey in performance, I determined the narrator to be a man who is recalling one of his adventures of his travels through Mexico (as a young man) to his nieces and nephews before they go out trick or treating. I assumed the male role because the "small and fragile" man, whose "palm sombrero covered half his face" that wants the narrators eyes addresses him as "Mister". I also assume the narrators story takes place in the country side of Mexico, "I went to the window and inhaled the country air", during the early 20th century as The Blue Bouquet was published in 1949 by Octavio Paz, who was a Mexican poet and diplomat. Also, the machete wielding eye thief is wearing a sombrero, which is a broad-brimmed felt or straw hat, that is typically worn in Mexico or the southwestern US.
The narrators point of view involves the relationship between the narrator and the story. In The Blue Bouquet, the narrator is a participant in the action, therefore a dramatized narrator. He uses "I" to tell the story, which makes the narrator a first-person major character, subjective and unreliable because he is central in the action, which allows this narrator to be biased and prejudice and exaggerate this experience when retelling it. As Yordon explains, "first person major character narrators are in a sense confessing, and because they have something to confess, they must also have something to conceal" (Yordon, 185) What was the narrators real reason for "plunging into the darkness" when the boardinghouse owner tells him, "Everything's closed. And no streetlights around here. You'd better stay put." Perhaps there was more to the narrators reason; "to take a walk. It's too hot" was a mere excuse to meet up with someone? A lover? A drug dealer? Maybe the knife to the back from the "eye thief" was a father of a young woman (or man) with whom the narrator was smitten, but their young love entailed breaking tradition and therefore the narrator needed to learn a lesson? Or maybe the eye thief was the lovers husband?
The most essential elements to communicate when performing a prose fiction selection are the vocal, physical, psychological and emotional characteristics of the narrator. In The Blue Bouquet, I chose the narrator's voice to be young man's, light, enthusiastic, hopeful. Physically, I see him slender and fit, (it was the 1940's) and since it was hot, I envisioned him in a white shirt and khakis. The psychological and emotional characteristics of the narrator are undoubtable interwoven, as the narrator endures a bit of a roller-coast in this story. He is acutely aware of his surroundings, "one could hear the breathing of the night", "wind whistled slightly", "I breathed the air of the tamarinds, the night hummed full of leaves and insects...crickets bivouacked in the tall grass." He becomes introspective and awed when he looks up and sees the "stars too had set up camp". He begins to see the universe as a "vast system of stars, a conversation between giant beings." His enrapture to and from nature engulfs him as he begins to connect his actions, "the crickets saw, the stars blink" to a unique language he is suddenly beginning to understand; "pauses and syllables, scattered phrases." He sees himself as a word, "of which I was only a syllable" and illuminates a whisper, a hint, that he is thinking of something bigger than himself; "Who speaks the word? To whom is it spoken?" Even his falling cigarette is connected to and a reflection of the universe as it shoots out "brief sparks like a tiny comet."
The narrator feels alive and free in this moment, ("secure between the lips that were at the moment speaking me with such happiness") and the reader does too. This feeling changes for both the narrator and the audience when he "felt the point of a knife" in his back. Emotionally and psychologically, he becomes frightened (the prospect of death or eyes being cut out with a machete would do that to a person) and begins to plea and reason with the knife wielding eye thief; "Look, I've got some money. Not much, but it's something. I'll give you everything I have if you let me go" and "Don't take the eyes of a fellow man." Though full of pleas and reason, the narrator stays calm enough to do as the eye thief says, "I struck a match" and when ordered to kneel, "I knelt" and opened his eyes when ordered to "keep them open." When the narrator is told by the eye thief to "beat it" he is frantic and disoriented, in that he is "stumbling, falling, trying to get up again", and he runs "for an hour through the deserted town". Whether from the shock of what had just transpired or embarrassment for having been warned, when the narrator sees the boardinghouse owner still sitting in the front door, he "went in without saying a word and "the next day" he leaves town.
When narrators speak they are telling the story and when the characters speak, the narrator is showing or illustrating the story with lines of dialogue. I show the owner of the boardinghouse in a "hoarse voice" as this is stated in the story and I show the eye thief's dialogue in a few ways, also as stated in the story; "a sweet voice", "a soft, almost painful voice" and when he feels fooled by the narrator, they eye thief speaks "harshly." The narrators telling of the story begins confident and a bit cocky, turns dreamy with youth and excitement of just being alive, then frantic and frightened during his encounter with the eye thief.
The characters in the story are the narrator, the boardinghouse owner and the eye thief. Both the boardinghouse owner and eye thief are flat characters, as they have one predominant characteristic (flat) and never undergo change (static). The boardinghouse owner is "at the door of the boardinghouse" "sitting on a wicker stool" when the narrator leaves for his walk and when he returns. As the boardinghouse owner's character is described as a "taciturn fellow", it would be expected the narrators dialogue with him would be short (especially if he's been there for some time and knows dialogue with him will be simple) and it makes sense that the narrator's interaction will be direct and to the point, "To take a walk, it's too hot" and shrugging his shoulders mutters "back soon". The eye thief's character is also flat as his agenda is only to take the narrators eyes. The narrators character is dynamic and shows different sides to his personality, beginning with cocky and carefree, moving to introspective and whimsical, ending frantic and fearful and abruptly leaving; "the next day I left town."
The Blue Bouquet is projected off-stage, with the narrator facing front so the audience can participate in the creation of the scene. The narrator uses open focus during epic mode moments and closed focus during the dramatic mode moments; dialogue between the boardinghouse owner and the eye thief.
The narratees in this story, the whom the narrator is speaking to, are the narrators nieces and nephews that he pulls aside and tells this to before they go out trick or treating. The events in my background that influenced my interpretation of this text was it reminded me of my childhood and a man we called Tio,(Spanish for uncle) who worked construction with my uncle. He would tell us similar devilishly delicious stories; ones so spooky and surreal we swore we would never ask to hear them again; yet out we'd run, begging for another story, when his truck pulled up after work!
The what of the story, or the plot, is the narrator is out for a late night walk in the countryside of Mexico, intoxicated with the sounds and smells of nature, the spirituality of the stars, when confronted by a man who wants to take his eyes out with a machete; "My girlfriend has a whim. She wants a bouquet of blue eyes. And around here they are hard to find." The plot structure begins causal; the narrator, wakes "covered in sweat" cleans himself off, gets dressed and heads out for a walk but turns contingent, as the narrators seemingly normal late night walk, turns into an event that happens without any logical relationship or causal link; an eye thief comes to take out his eyes! (though one can question why the narrator wouldn't listen to the one-eyed boardinghouse owner in which he was staying when told he better stay in as opposed to taking a late night walk, in the dark, in the countryside). I feel associative moments occurred when the narrator became whimsical and smitten with the sounds and smells and the sight of the stars.
The two considerations of where the story takes place begin with the setting and locale of the past events. He was at a boardinghouse, in the Mexican countryside, out for walk in the deserted town. The second aspect of the setting involves the locale of the narrator as he retells it in the present and I project the narrator doing so in his family's house. The why is for entertainment; a quick story meant to humor and scare his nieces and nephews before they go trick or treating.
The when of the story is divided into two essential elements: rhythm of action and actual time and virtual time. In The Blue Bouquet, the narrator's rhythm manipulates time with both his use of scene and description. The scenes discourse is equal to story time throughout, yet shifts (momentarily) to description when he "plunged into the darkness" and precedes to take the narratees through the magical journey of fumbling 'along the cobblestone street" and the events begin to take longer and are very detailed and the story slows; the narrator reminisces on the moon that "appeared behind a black cloud, lightening a white wall that was crumbled in places" and down the rabbit hole we go, into a moment that appears to have had lasting impressions on the narrators life. Actual time begins with my introduction to the audience and immediately shifts to the virtual present when I create my young and fit male narrator. When my imagined narrator engages in dialogue with the boardinghouse owner and the eye thief, I shift to the virtual past.
The how the story is told is done through tone and style. The tone is the author's attitude toward the work and I feel the tone of The Blue Bouquet was meant to be humorous and surprising, a humbling and ironic story of a young man, full of life and optimism, only to be shut down, perhaps for laughs, by the one-eyed taciturn boardinghouse owner (maybe the boardinghouse owner wanted to send that kid home with a good story). The style is the narrators manner of telling the story, and he does so as to take the narratees of a safe journey, only to send them off screaming; or bemused at the cleverness of the stories entirety.
I can vividly imagine the kids hearing that story before heading out and while walking the neighborhood Halloween night, asking questions and connecting the dots; is there a connection between the boardinghouse owner ("one-eyed taciturn fellow") and the eye thief ("palm sombrero covered half his face")? Coincidence? And why in response to the narrator's plea and reason, "My eyes won't help you. They're brown, not blue", and the eye thief responds "Don't fool me mister. I know very well your eyes are blue."? How did he know what color his eyes were? And back and forth the kids go in their discussion, deliciously enjoying Halloween night, their candy and their uncles spooky story.