"Distances" Questions and Answers
2) Read "Distances" on p. 104 and answer the following five questions. I will collect these tomorrow.
1) The story begins, "After this happened, after it began..." What's your interpretation of what happened? What do you think it is?
The world is ending for some reason. The storing the beginning talks about a flood so maybe everyone dies in a flood. Or it sounds closer to some sort of nuclear disaster because his girlfriend's body is burnt and flaking away. I believe he is imagining a world where all the whites are gone and then there is only Indians. It sounds like a scary society with harsh rules about what you can have a can't have and everyone seems to be dying.
2) Who are the Urbans? Who are the Skins? Who are the Others? Use evidence from the text to support your responses.
The urbans are the “city Indians who survived and made their way out to the reservation”(105) after society fell apart. Most of the urban Native Americans have died. The skins are Indians who” lived on the reservation”(106) when society fell apart. The skins are not allowed to marry the urbans because of the sickness in the urban's. The others are spirits that “come from 1000 years ago there braids gray and broken with age ”(108) One could tell that they are spirits because one is “taller than the clouds”(108). Which is of course impossible unless you are a spirit.
3) Select a line or two that you liked or that surprised or confused you. Write it out and then write out a brief explanation (2 - 4 sentences) of your response to it.
“Last night I dreamed about television. I woke up crying”(106) I found this very confusing. The only thing I can think of is that there is no more television because it is the end of the world and no one's bothering to make TV or ads or trying to sell products because the world is that it's and why bother. And the reason he is crying is because he misses the comfort of knowing that there is still a world that bothers to sell products.
4) How does the narrator feel about the situation(s) described in the story? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
The narrator feels like the end of the world is pointless and sad and somehow caused by everyone and no one at the same time. He sounds hopeless and sad.” I make mistakes”(109) even though he doesn't deserve to live he wants to. He talks about all the mistakes that he's made would be ”on the inside where you couldn't see couldn't reach”(109). He is blaming himself and everybody else for the problems of the world and he sounds like he just wants it to end but he scared. He turns on a radio and turns the volume way up and realizes he's all alone and all he “could hear was the in and out in again of my breath”. He understands the end is near and he is terrified.
5) Does this character's response to the situation described in the story remind you of any other characters from other stories we've read? (It's not an option to leave this one blank, so think of some connection to share.)
The story we read right before this one The Trial of Thomas Builds the Fire is very similar in its hopelessness. The moment Thomas is arrested he already knows his fate because of rampant racism and misunderstanding of his culture. In Distances the narrator feels a sense of doom and hopelessness. Thomas is trying to remember why he deserves his punishment and all he can come up with was reliving glory days of gory battles where the Indians won. In Distances he is remembering a time after everyone in the world except for Indians died where the Native Americans were on top for a while, although it was a hollow victory because of course even they were dying off. In the trial of Thomas he brings up sort of victories that he had by killing soldiers but even that wasn't a real victory because one of the soldiers shot him to a shoulder and he was hurt badly. So in both stories even when someone sounds like they're being victorious another hard part of their life is about to begin where they have to struggle.