In “Nirvana” (2014), Adam Johnson describes a period of life of a successful IT expert, which at that point evolves around two items – his wife's paralytic illness and his success in making a hologram projection version of the recently assassinated President,which can be easily downloaded online. The story progresses in two lines – the main character's relationship with his paralyzed wife and the development of his career in the IT business. Johnson succeeded greatly in describing a man in search for himself under the circumstances that underwent a drastic change. In this search, the character finally manages not only to come to terms with other people's understanding of his success in creating the talking hologram of the President, but also finds out the means to bring his wife back to life with the use of the same technology, although confronted with many harsh conditions and hard choices. Overall, Johnson’s tone is depressive, apathetic, and nostalgic.
One passage in Johnson’s story illuminates this tone particularly well. This passage appears nearly in the middle of the short story. The main character explicates the conditions of his wife's illness, Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes body paralysis. In the beginning of the short story, the reader gets acquainted with the fact that Charlotte is paralyzed and is explained the “mechanics” of the syndrome. As the story progresses, the narrator chooses to reveal how his wife fell ill. In this passage, Johnson takes the reader through the process of how Guillain-Barré syndrome gradually causes the paralysis of the entire body. Johnson starts the revelation simply: “The woman you love gets the flu” (Johnson). This sentence is extremely simple in syntax and word choice, but for the reader, who has already read half the story, it inevitably signals some ghastly continuation. The continuation does follow – in the horrid excess of medical terminology. Further, the passage consists mostly of medical terms which signify grave health conditions. Johnson puts them one after another: “After an ER doc inserts a Foley catheter, you learn new words—axon, areflexia, dendrite, myelin, ascending peripheral polyneuropathy. - starts simply, complicates later” (Johnson). A scary conclusion creeps into the reader's mind: the mentioned terms are not familiar to the ordinary person, but they have become a normal part of the narrators life. The situation gets more depressed when Johnson engages metaphors in order to aggravate the effect which the excess of medical terms has on the reader. Johnson writes: “Soon, you behold the glycerin glow of a fresh-drawn vial of spinal fluid” (Johnson). This kind of narration shows the extent to which the narrator is depressed to see his wife in such a condition even though he is capable of thinking of metaphors. The way that Johnson depicts Charlotte's illness greatly influences the depressive and apathetic tone of the story.
Johnson, Adam. “Nirvana”, Esquire, July 30, 2013. Web.