One autumn evening, when I was nine years old, my parents told me that I would be alone in the house while my dad took my little brother to Indian Guides, and my mom went to bridge club. The three of them quickly left, and there I was, alone at night for the first time. From my spot on the couch, I could see the stairs leading up to the second floor. The steps made a right turn near the top, and all the lights had been turned off on the second floor. As I looked up at the dark on the top of the stairs, it occurred to me that there could easily be a dangerous man watching me from behind that curtain of darkness. Then I thought about the basement, an area certain to contain several monsters if not more. As the minutes went by, I became more frightened. I was virtually surrounded by dangerous creatures. My very life was in mortal danger.
That’s when I made the decision that saved my life. I bolted for the front door and ran out into the night. If those monsters wanted to eat me for dinner, they were going to have to catch me first! I walked around the neighborhood until my parents came back. Then went home and lived happily ever after.
The plots of many novels hinge on the decisions made by the main characters. As a reader, perhaps you’ve found yourself sending mental rays of concern to the protagonist of a book to help them make their decision. ”Don’t go in the basement! Don’t bet all the orphanage’s money on Fireball in the ninth race!” Of course, what makes the novel interesting is the protagonist often does those things that you don’t want them to do. Then you have to read the rest of the novel to find out what happens. Here are a few books in which decisions play a major part of the plot.
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron The term “Sophie’s choice” has become an idiom meaning the necessity to choose between two unbearable options. In this major novel, Sophie recounts her experience in a concentration camp and the time when she was forced to choose which of her children would live and which would be killed.
Poisonwood Bible* by Barabara Kingsolver In the 1950′s a strong-willed Baptist preacher moves his wife and four daughters to the Congo. Each chapter is narrated alternately by the wife and four daughters. As the missionary dream turns into a disaster, each of the female protagonists must make decisions to cope with the situation.
Huckleberry Finn* byMark Twain In this satire of the antebellum South, Huck must decide whether or not to help his friend Jim, who is a slave, escape. What makes this decision difficult for Huck is that he has been brought up to believe that anyone who helps a slave get away will go to hell. This classic is worth reading again and again.
Into Thin Air* by Jon Krakauer In this true adventure a group of mountain climbers becomes trapped by a storm near the summit of Mount Everest. Leaders of the expedition can only save a limited number of climbers. Which ones will they choose, and what happens to those who are left to their own devices?
Deliverance* by James Dickey Four middle-aged men take a white water canoe trip. Only one of them, Lewis, knows what he’s doing. Two of the men get into a confrontation with a couple of backwoods assailants. This is the infamous “squeal like a pig” incident. One of the locals gets killed and the men are forced to decide whether to hide the body or take a chance on a trial in that inbred area of wilderness. Additional misfortune follows as Lewis breaks his leg, the men are waylaid by the surviving assailant and more.
* I have read and enjoyed these books.
Harry S. Truman
Subject: I’ve Arrived
Date: 16 May 2003
I know you’re surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send e-mails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is not as uneventful as mine was.