This review can also be found at The Mookse and the Gripes.
First Line: "We watched him come in, how his steps faltered at the threshold of the classroom, how he just stood there, his first mistake, giving us enough time to size him up, not enough time for him to figure out who we were, what strategy might win us over."
Last Line: "We remain absolutely still and wait."
I do not like stories that have a moral as their purpose - that have a message as their medium - that have a point that may be categorized as political. I like stories that let me find my own joy or sorrow in the plot and characters.
Ariel Dorfman has written a piece that feels like I am to read it for homework and come into class prepared to discuss the themes and how they apply to our lives - here and now. I felt 16 again, anxious to get it "right", get my A, and feel a bit intellectual in the process.
Which is to say "kudos!" to Mr. Dorfman. The first person narrator is plural. We are supposed to feel part of a nameless, faceless group of students, feeling intellectual and wise, and unsure when a new teacher takes the place of the beloved. We feel their uneasiness - we feel our own mind dart in and out of old thought patterns and new ideas. They do not know what has happened to the man that could lead them, nor do we. We just sit and watch and wait, as they do, to see what the new teacher can pull from the group.
There is great symbolism (the title, for instance) and deep philosophical questions ("Why is indifference worse than murder?"). There are fantastic images ("...with a bird in a nearby tree watching the snow cover his body...") and the length is perfect for its politics (5 pages when I printed it up).
But I love the connection with one or two characters - I don't care about how the group feels. A group is made of individuals, but even here that is cleaned and refined by Garcia. He claims to have taught them to rebel, but here they sit, unsure of what that rebellion should look like to their former instructor, not to themselves.
I like the examination of the individual and the only place I found it here was: "...he was not disappointed when somebody asked, this time I am sure it was not me, 'Does that mean we should never love intensely, give ourselves entirely to another human being?'" This was in response to Garcia's comment: "Remember that he who loves more in a relationship always ends up screwed." We see the one narrator speaking for all. And we see that Garcia is not just the "resistance leader of the week" - we see that somehow, his heart was broken. And that is not politics.
It is well-written and conveyed with great skill. It just isn't my cup of tea. The brush strokes paint a beautiful nose, but I prefer teeth.
Photo credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d5/DorfmanA1.jpg/250px-DorfmanA1.jpg