These three essays deal with vastly different topics. The first essay, entitled “Back to Square One” is less of an essay, and more of a creative writing piece; it follows the life of a family living in Tijuana, Mexico. The family is well-to-do, and lives in a nice, secluded house on a hillside outside of the city. The husband of the family is a policeman, in charge of the anti-corruption and anti-drug unit of the local police, and the mother is a stay-at-home housewife responsible for the care of their young daughter. Both the mother and the father are living in fear over potential violence against their family, because of the high rate of kidnappings and violence in the area.
In this essay, the young daughter is skipping rope in the hacienda, but she really wants to go out to the park to play. She has been cooped up in the hacienda for too long, and begs her mother to let her go. Her mother finally acquiesces, fearing what her daughter will do if she cannot get out of the house for a while. The story ends with the sound of gunfire and the mother’s knowledge that her worst fears have been confirmed-- her daughter has been either kidnapped or killed by the people her husband is hunting.
The next essay, entitled “Pathos and Character Manipulation in Hans Christian Andersen's ‘The Fir Tree’” is about the titular fable. It examines a variety of different ways that Andersen’s “The Fir Tree” exemplifies the story form of the fable. The essay delves into the myth itself, looking at the way Andersen build sympathy for the characters in the story, even characters that would generally not be sympathetic, like the fir tree itself. The story is one that teaches a lesson about living in the moment and not searching for things greater than oneself, but unlike many of Andersen’s stories, the fir tree does not commit any large sin; yet he falls victim to his bad decisions. This pathos is the focus of this essay, combined with the characterization of the fir tree as an inanimate object. Because the fir tree is not usually considered a character in a story, Andersen needed to work hard to make the tree sympathetic. Part of the reason the tree is sympathetic to the reader is because the reader knows the inevitability of the tree’s demise; this helps the reader learn the lesson that the tree fails to learn.
The final essay in this trio is entitled “Rank and Fear in ‘The Nose.’” “The Nose” is a short story by Gogol; it is often considered one of the best absurdist short stories written. The essay is concerned primarily with the intersection of rank and fear within the short story, and the absurdity of the actions that the characters take as a result of their fear over the rank of the other characters in the story. The whole story is built upon absurdity, and this is why rank and fear can be so openly and metaphorically discussed within the text. The essay also discusses the role of fear within the story itself, and the way that fear reflects the cultural realities of the time and place in which “The Nose” was written.