1976 - Jeffty is Five

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Jim Davis
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Postby Jim Davis » Fri Feb 18, 2005 10:56 am

On second thought, Leona had to make Jeffty's death look like an accident; what was she going to do, spend the rest of her life in prison? Still, the whole thing relies on chance, so much so that it makes me wonder if Leona had been attempting that for awhile in the hope the kid would make a wrong move one day. You know, "Honey, why don't you put your radio next to the tub so you can listen to your favorite shows? Here, let me do it."

As for Jeffty's state of mind in the bath, I don't see anything more sophisticated than pain and bewilderment, as an existential despair doesn't jibe with the description of Jeffty up to that point. Despite his chronological age, Jeffty is, well, five, and not only five, but aggressively five. (So much so, he's bending the space-time continuum to his will.) And even if he'd had a "moment of clarity," as they say, would his first impulse really be to electrocute himself? Like Barney points out, how many five-year-olds would react that way? (Yeah, I know, the story is about the larger theme of the death of childhood, so the mechanics shouldn't matter so much. Still, the characters are so vivid, the hows and whys are crucial to a proper consideration of the story--at least, they are to me.)

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Steve Evil
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Death of a Littleman. . .

Postby Steve Evil » Fri Feb 18, 2005 1:07 pm

gentle end to a love that dies hardest, the love and longing for the child.


Didn't seem that gentle to me, but I do see your point. . .

Perhaps I missed something, but I always assumed that Jeffty just died of his wounds, and his mother didn't do anything (call ambulence) to stop it. Passive murder possibly. But it would have to be a really viciousI'll have to reread the ending.

There are many cases of young children injuring themselves, sometimes even trying to "go to heaven" to join a lost loved one. But it's not the same as an adult suicide. They haven't developed complicated notions of life and death.

Now would you please sign this stack of Garfield cartoons Mr. Davis. . .

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Fri Feb 18, 2005 1:44 pm

I'm quite certain now that the ending is intentionally open to interpretation, but with the exception of 5.y.olds not normally doing that kind of thing, I have made the stronger case. In the end, it is his (humand and non-human) surroundings that kill him, directly or indirectly, which is why I said this story is also about responsibility, or maybe even more than that it's about true friendship, like Harlan said in the introduction I mentioned. We can all learn something about being a friend from reading this and by learning from Donny's mistakes.

Barney: There are three Dannelkes with phones in Germany, two of them in the same house, all three from about the same area. I guess there must have been more, but most likely they committed suicide early in their lives. ;-)

rich

Postby rich » Fri Feb 18, 2005 2:37 pm

Jan wrote:...but with the exception of 5.y.olds not normally doing that kind of thing, I have made the stronger case.


Ummm, I'm gonna call bullshit on that. Five-year olds don't "normally" commit suicide anymore than teenagers "normally" commit suicide. "Stronger case"? Please tell me, Jan, you're not a lawyer currently defending someone on death row.

There is nothing NOTHING in the story to suggest that Jeffty commits suicide. Personally, Mom's probably been trying to kill the kid for years. Maybe leaving scissors or a carving knife in the open. Not mopping up the floor by the basement steps. Contributing to the Democratic Party in Jeffty's name.

But, it ain't suicide.

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Fri Feb 18, 2005 4:00 pm

Five-year olds don't "normally" commit suicide anymore than teenagers "normally" commit suicide. "Stronger case"? Please tell me, Jan, you're not a lawyer currently defending someone on death row.

Please calm yourself, I don't see why you need to tear apart my language, which I think is fairly comprehensible. I certainly didn't say or suggest that anyone above the age of five normally commits suicide. "Stranger case" is called a metaphor, rich. I'm gald to be able to educate you there. You have anything to say of any substance?

The thing is, people haven't brought fourth many good arguments to bolster their vague feelings, certainly nothing entirely convincing. It's not that hard to change my mind, but it does take more than just group pressure, of which your post is a good example. Sure, the suicide theory clashes with Jefftys innocence to kill himself, but we have to remember his state of mind in his final lonely moments. I'm not saying it's definitely suicide, as you may know I have been talked into recognizing that the ending is ambiguous.
There is nothing NOTHING in the story to suggest that Jeffty commits suicide.

Again, stop taking it personally, instead show me why I'm wrong. I guess it depends on the assumptions one makes. You're all making the assumption that Jeffty didn't know it is dangerous to take a radio into the bathtub. Okay. Well, I'm making the assumption he did. (When I was five I believe had already been told that, otherwise my whole family would be dead, and I didn't even listen to radio shows dealing with science and violence among other things.) The ending is intentionally ambiguous, since Ellison usually knows what he's doing.
Personally, Mom's probably been trying to kill the kid for years.

Now that's an assumption too, isn't it? It could be that she did, but I don't really think so. The story indicates that the occurrence described was possibly the last straw for her.

Micheal
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Postby Micheal » Fri Feb 18, 2005 4:01 pm

The end is as gentle as the pain created from the contemplation of the sacrifice that was needed to be made. We've all watched illusions and dreams we've had raped, killed, then erased by the processes of time and maturity. At the end we give ourselves emotional surcease by throwing away the pain of loss and holding to those recollections that comfort us.

I guess growth abhors the vacuum as well.

Ellison has frequently quoted this bit of Faulkner:

...the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.


That's Jeffty for me. This tale is where Ellison suggests that the conflict is necessary for growth and humanity. He measures the cost, Wellington's "butcher's bill" if you will, of the slaughter of dreams at the hand of reality. Wave after wave of ideals and hopes churned under by the cold swath of "facts", "truth", "reason", the literal and tangible; a war that, should we wish to be human, must never cease.

Ellison's skill comes from the fact all those ideals that are killed are given decent and respectful burial, and the promise in our skill of recall that they can live again.

rich

Postby rich » Wed Feb 23, 2005 12:16 pm

"Strong case" is a metaphor? Uh-huh. Oh. I guess that explains it, then.

As Archie Bunker once said, "You're a pip, Jan, a real pip."

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Thu Feb 24, 2005 10:15 am

Oh hell, I think it is very obvious what happens to Jeffty; he just winds down and ceases to be. He has had enough of the modern world, and that fear gives him the cold kiss on the cheek.

It is like the kid from AI, who just turns himself off. Basically Jeffty fades away, kind of like the past.

Harlan wants us to look towards the future, but never to forget what make certain ideals of the past important, and to get back to that.

Modern society does not have to be stale and lame. That is Harlan's warning to us.

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Postby Guest » Wed Apr 13, 2005 7:39 am

Harlan once asked me to try to at least understand the conflict from the point of view from Jeffty's parents, but I'm still not mature enough, or wise enough, to see anything that might justify an act of infanticide. (With the exception of your kid being named Damien, of course.)

On the other hand, I guess that's what these people saw Jeffty as: Damien. I should re-read the story and see if there's any hints that the two of them might be devout Christians.

Personally, I don't buy the suicide angle. When I was 5, I was almost killed when I fell out of the treehouse in the backyard (I survived thanks to landing on my ass first), but I don't have any real memory of wanting to destroy myself at the time.

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Ben
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Postby Ben » Wed Apr 13, 2005 7:44 am

Sorry, fellas. That was me up there. First time I've ever posted as a "guest". It's me, Ben. You know, the basset hound guy.

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NeonMosfet
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Postby NeonMosfet » Fri Jul 01, 2005 12:20 am

Off hand, there are three possibilities.

Jeffty goes to camp. At that point, he never changes. Donny is seven, but Jeffty is always five. Something has happened. Jeffty is a ghost child. An accident at camp. Possibly drowned. Never changing, always static. There is something creepy and interesting about being haunted by a ghost child. Eventually, his parents want to move on, as do everyone else. Feeling they can rid themselves of the ghost child, they "christen" him, by drowning, possibly the cause of death in the first place, thus making him the problem of the Allmighty.

Jeffty actually grows into adulthood, but is a mental five year old. Never growing, never advancing. His parents in advancing age, want to salvage what they have left of life. Also, they wonder who will care for their disabled child when they are gone. They do the obvious.

Jeffty is a figment of the Twilight Zone, who has everyone who has contact, wringing their hands, moaning, " Why me?"

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Harlan Ellison
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Postby Harlan Ellison » Fri Jul 01, 2005 10:34 pm

How can so maany smart people be so goddam dumb?

No suicide. No infanticide. No years-long desire to kill a child. No universal helplessness. No inevitability. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no nononononononononononononononononono to every one of your overwrought wrong-headed cruel passionless unsympathetic too-much-book-larnin' misinterpretations of a simple, uncomplicated tragic statement that the future lives to eat the past, like a shark; it is a killing machine.

You people ought to go back to O. Henry, Roald Dahl, Ambrose Bierce, Ring Lardner and Edgar Allan Poe.

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NeonMosfet
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Postby NeonMosfet » Sat Jul 02, 2005 12:27 am

Be glad. That makes you smarter. Of course the Future devours the past, just as Time devours our lives. We can't go back, though we want to. I loved the original copy Strange Wine for obvious reasons. I even made her dress. Givenchy. Haute coutour. Completely by hand. But that copy doesn't exist any more, even if I want it to.

But I can relate. Neon is 35; she's always 35. I have been accused of being a sorcerer. They drown witches, don't they?

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Harlan Ellison
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Postby Harlan Ellison » Sat Jul 02, 2005 1:55 pm

16 hours later.

Absent the availability of a guillotine, words must suffice.

You are owed an apology, both individually and as a conversational gestalt.

I regret and am embarrassed by my tone of voice, my choice of words, my splenetic response, and the incivility of my intrusion. There are more than two or three explanations for my manner but, to my shame, none of them ascend to the throne of excuse.

Please accept my apology, and if there is a price to be paid for rudeness and imprudence, I am content that you require I belly up to the bar to pay it.

Harlan

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NeonMosfet
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Postby NeonMosfet » Sat Jul 02, 2005 10:47 pm

It's okay. You don't have to beat yourself up, that much! I had no idea I could be that acerbic. And thus has been the diagnosis of Dr. DarqueAngel.

Seriously, though. This has been a bad week for me. My beloved Bunny Rabbit, Frankie BonBlanc was found murdered by marauding raccoons. It still tears me up. The little guy was so full of love. So we gave him a funeral. And I put flowers on his grave.


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