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Analysis ”the Right Time to Fly” by Shirley Golden

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Analysis” The right time to fly” by Shirley Golden

Summary:

“The Right Time to Fly” by Shirley Golden starts with Marcus, who is working at a landfill, where waste is brought and destroyed or gathered. His and his colleagues’ work is interrupted by a young woman who often trespasses the area to take photographs of the waste for a university project.

Marcus chases her away again, wondering why she does not take photos of the beautiful river landscape across the landfill. As he searches the area nearby the landfill, he discovers the woman in a barge where she has made an improvised shelter and where she is cooking some burgers. He asks her whether she stays there and she offers him food. They begin a somewhat casual conversation about their lives. Marcus is twenty-nine and has been working at the landfill for ten years. He used to be married and had a child who died at a young age falling from the balcony during his vigilance. Suzy is nineteen and has not yet decided what to do after graduation.

She takes Marcus to the fence of the landfill and shows him a radiator with wires coming out of it looking like wings. Then he shows him how she manages to get inside the landfill perimeter through the bars. Marcus chases her again, but soon Suzy gets scratched by a pipe. He helps her disinfect the wound and tells her again that she should not be taking photos at the landfill. He also tells her that the barge she is living in will be demolished in one month.

A week passes without Marcus seeing Suzy, and he decides to go to the barge. He finds no trace of Suzy except an envelope. The envelope contains photos of him in the yard of the landfill and when he was mending her wound. On the back of the photos, Suzy has left a message for Marcus saying that it is never too late to start over. As Marcus walks back to the yard of the landfill, he sees the radiator Suzy has shown him and realizes that, indeed, it looks like wings.

Structure:

The short story “The Right Time to Fly” by Shirley Golden is structured around a conflict between an employee at a landfill and a student who takes photos of the place. The author follows most of the elements of a traditional plot: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.

The title:

The title of the short story, “The Right Time to Fly”, hints at what the narrative is going to be about in terms of theme, but not in terms of plot. When we read the title, we think about freedom and independence usually associated with flying, but also about being ready for them.

Before reading the story, some readers might assume the story is either connected with birds or flying by plane. However, upon reading the story, we uncover that the plot has almost nothing to do with either birds or planes; that birds, wings and flying are only symbolic of embracing change, freedom and independence. The title is also part of a line of Suzy’s character, referring to a broken radio on the landfill: ““It’s like a pair of wings, waiting for release, for the right time to fly,” she says.” (ll. 114-115)

This remark should be connected with another message Suzy leaves for Marcus: “Not too old to start over” (l. 162). This way, it becomes clear that the title is a symbolic reference to Marcus redefining himself, not as a man who lost his family and a landfill worker, but as something else; just as the radio can be seen as a bird waiting to take its flight.

Also, the title may suggest the injustice of the fact that Marcus’ son has died young. Children dying at a young age is not “the right time” and the word “fly” can be correlated with the fact that the boy has fallen from the balcony.

Beginning

The short story begins in media res, in the middle of events, lacking a classical exposition and introducing readers directly to the setting and the characters without too many details: ““She’s back,” Marcus says. He claps his hands and waves. “Whoa, stop. Stop.” Owen brings the crane to a halt. He leans from the open window and shouts, “There a problem?”” (ll. 1-3)

We slowly realize the action takes place at a landfill, and it involves Marcus who works there and a young student who is trespassing to take photos: “He walks past moored barges, awaiting their scrap pile destination, same as everything else in and around the yard. He approaches her; her face is obscured by the camera lens...” (ll. 6-8)

Middle

The middle of the short story develops the rising action. Marcus tries to find out how the student gets in and discovers that she has taken shelter at a barge just outside the landfill yard. The two of them have a brief conversation about the trespassing but also about their lives.

The climax takes place when Suzy sneaks inside the landfill again – showing Marcus how she does it – and gets hurt while being chased by Marcus:

“Stop it, will you?”(...)
He lunges for the camera. She stumbles. A pipe catches at a tear in her jeans and digs into her skin. She yelps.
 (ll. 126-131)

During the rising action, the author includes a flashback Marcus has about his family: “He has to blink away the memory of their frayed washing line rigid across the balcony, tiny clothes, limp and dripping.” (ll. 47-48)

This flashback foreshadows Marcus’ backstory and inner conflict. Seven years prior, Marcus had lost his son who fell off the balcony and he probably blames himself for that: “Her words, sharp like a slap: 'Just watch him.' Marcus sulks after another row. Ben plays by the window. Then, an empty space instead. The flutter of net curtains. Silence.” (ll. 91-94)

Ending

The ending of the short story includes the falling action and the resolution. After Suzy’s leg is injured by a pipe, Marcus mends the wound, and their conflict is somewhat reconciled:

“Hey, Suzy. That barge you’re on, it’s programmed for demolition in a month – thought you should know that.”
“You know, you’re not half bad,” she says. 
(ll. 148-150)

As far as the resolution is concerned, we can say that the outer conflict of Suzy and Marcus is resolved (Suzy leaves the landfill area), but that Marcus’s inner conflict is not fully settled, having an open resolution. Suzy metaphorically opens his eyes and makes him realize that he can still change his life and start over. “On the back, scribbled in bubble letters: Not too old to start over. He tucks the photos inside his pocket. His eyes smart.” (ll. 161-163)

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