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Breece D’J Pancake’s “First Day of Winter”

Response Paper

“The first day of winter” is a short story from “The Stories of Breece D’j Pancake” written by Breece D’J Pancake. This short story revolves around the inner atrocities of the protagonist Hollis who lives on an underprivileged farm with his sick parents. Pancake has set the plot of this story in his native town of Virginia with a debilitating and challenging environment. At the end of the story, Hollis feels like he is attending his funeral because of his never-ending loneliness, internal conflicts, and financial issues.

Throughout the story, Pancake weaves the plot darkly to reflect Hollis’s secluded state and loneliness. Hollis is a boy who wanted to live his life and enjoy himself with his friends and family members. However, we see a completely different picture of Hollis who is stranded with his sick parents on a debilitating farmhouse in a poor village. Hollis is doing all his chores alone. He sits alone and stares into darkness in the forest. Hollis has no memories to relish and to share with someone. The only hope of Hollis was his brother Jake, but he has gone away leaving him with his sick parents all alone. It is clear that Hollis wanted his brother by his side but is too egoistic to admit it. Therefore Hollis is deserted and lonesome. Hollis’s secluded state can be reflected through this excerpt taken from this excerpt, “Hollis sat by the window all night…. Looking for some way out of the tomb, Jake had built for him (Pancake 165)”. Hollis’s loneliness is one of the factors which is a reason for Hollis envisioning his funeral.

The internal conflicts of Hollis force him into never-ending darkness. The major reason for Hollis’s internal conflicts is the lack of basic needs, hygiene, and medical care for his sick parents and himself. In the story, Hollis’s last hope is also crushed when his brother Jake refuses to take his parents leaving Hollis alone to tackle all his internal conflicts. Pancake uses vivid circumstantial details to reflect upon the never-ending loneliness Hollis is suffering. “He knew she (mother) could see what insanity has driven him to” (Pancake, 167). Hollis’s mother very well knew about Hollis’s internal atrocities and secluded behavior, but she was not putting any effort to help him get through it. The fox seen by Hollis in the forest can be viewed as a symbol that represents his brother Jake. Hollis thinks of Jake while looking at the fox who is relaxing in the forest and quickly tries to shoot him, but the fox runs away.

The financial issues and lack of basic hygienic necessities have propelled Hollis to his debilitating state and to envision his funeral. Hollis was in constant struggle and turmoil because “the farm was failing” (Pancake, 165) and he was not able to provide a better lifestyle and medical care for his old parents. Hollis is hunting to provide meals to his family. Hollis has worked extremely hard to pay the bank debts and loans his parents have taken. After Jake’s refusal, Hollis realizes that he has no way out of his financial issues. The broken car symbolizes the broken life of Hollis. Hollis was not able to restore his car just the way he could not improve his devastating life. Therefore, at the end of the story, he accepts his fate and waits for death to embrace him. Pancake uses the vivid imagery of a funeral to reflect upon Hollis accepting his failing life.

In a nutshell, the final appearance of Hollis is envisaged as a dying person surrendering to his dreadful fate of poverty, loneliness, and never-ending struggle with his internal conflicts and social conflicts. Throughout the story, Hollis is mournful and pessimistic about his circumstances with his parents at the old farm.

Works Cited

Pancake, Breece D. J. The Stories of Breece D’j Pancake. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983. Print.



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