Short Story Response
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“Miracle Polish” by Millhauser begins in the traditional folklore style: A stranger appears at the door with Miracle polish to sale. At first the protagonist is reluctant to buy the bottle of polish but he ends up buying one bottle to impress the salesman. However, when he uses the polish to shine his mirror, he saw his reflection in a new and better way: “There was freshness to my body, a kind of mild glow that I had never seen....” (Millhauser, 2011).
The plot of the story reveals a man to man conflict in two occasions. First, the narrator had a slight conflict with the sales man because of the manner in which he conducted his business. He could not understand how a man would move from one door to the other selling some products. The second conflict arises between the man and his wife because of his obsession with mirrors. Monica says “I can’t. I tried, but I can’t… you have to choose.” (Millhauser, 2011). She was tired of the man concentrating on the refection in the mirror instead of appreciating her real body.
The story starts by introducing the salesman with his miracle polish. It then develops gradually when the narrator creates some instability in the story: Some cracks emerge in the relationship between the narrator and Monica. The instability between the two grows in the middle section of the story. That is why the narrator tries to impress Monica by proposing “a Saturday picnic”. (Millhauser, 2011).However, the narrator reignites the conflict by his obsession with reflections in the mirror. When Monica could not stand her lovers behavior, she snaps and says; “I can’t …such a perfect day and now this!” (Millhauser, 2011). The story ends when the narrator gets rid of the mirrors that had created a conflict in their relationship. He breaks the mirrors to please Monica but he hurts inside: “She is gone! That’s what you wanted! Isn’t it? Isn’t it?” (Millhauser, 2011). However, his tone and behavior makes Monica more aggravated.
There are three characters in the story; the sales man, the narrator, and Monica. The salesman had “the glint of desperation in his eyes.” (Millhauser, 2011). However, he was lucky to find one person that bought his product “Miracle polish.” Like most salesmen, he assures the narrator that he had made the right choice.
The main character is the narrator. He is kind-hearted. This is reflected by the way he handled the salesman. “There was no hurrying him.” (Millhauser, 2011). He also made up his mind to buy at least one product from him. He is a loving man because he takes his girlfriend for a picnic to show that he still loves her despite their misunderstanding. Additionally, be breaks the mirrors to make Monica happy. He is also romantic as evident in his description of Monica. “While raising her hands anxiously to her hair, she had a habit of assessing her looks mercilessly.”
Monica is a quiet and caring woman. She always paid a visit twice a week. She was also concerned about her lover that is why she inquired whether something was wrong. Her conservative nature is demonstrated by her dress cord. “She wore long skirts that came down to her ankles.” (Millhauser, 2011).
The setting of the story begins in a dull house that is them made beautiful and attractive with the introduction of mirrors. The narrator states that he used to spend very little time in the house before he brought in mirrors. However, the house became a venue of conflict that is why the couple headed to the beach for a picnic. The picnic restored some excitement in the story as demonstrated by the narrator’s statement saying “At the moment, it seemed to me that everything was possible for Monica and me.” (Millhauser, 2011). However, when they went back home, the mirrors brought back the conflict.
The narrator’s point of view is not likable because he seemed to love Monica’s reflection which shows that he did not like her real appearance. Even though he tried to downplay the issue, he was more comfortable with the reflection because it reignites some missing love in the relationship.
The theme of the story is obsession. The narrator’s obsession with the mirrors grew as the story progressed. The mirrors allegedly transformed Monica’s appearance and made her more attractive to the narrator. For the better part of the story, the narrator tries to describe his relationship with Monica in many ways. For instance, he describes his dress code, beauty and love. He began to pay attention to Monica’s appearance because of the mirrors. He kept adding mirrors in the house as reflected by the statement “I added a second one to the living room.” (Millhauser, 2011). He bought mirrors of all shapes and spent most of his time looking into them.
The theme of romance is also evident. For instance, the narrator takes Monica for a picnic. His description of Monica is romantic: “Monica had put on a big-brimmed straw hat…, new light green blouse…., she took off her hat and placed it on her lap as she sat back with half closed eyes….”(Millhauser, 2011). This description arouses emotions in the readers and makes them imagine Monica’s beautiful body. It also brings back the feeling of love in the relationship thus making the story more interesting to the reader.
One issue that has caught my attention is the narrator’s obsession with the mirrors. I expected Monica to love the mirrors because ladies are more associated with mirrors. In fact, the mirror should show a reflection of who one really is. If he is ugly, a mirror will show him ugly. On the contrary, the narrator claims to have been struck by “a sense of freshness.” He states that “Maybe the words “Miracle Polish” had caused cells in my brain…that affected the way I saw the reflected world.” (Millhauser, 2011). I am yet to hear of such a scenario. I must have been all but in the narrator’s imagination. If the polish had some miraculous powers, Monica should also have seen a transformed image when she looked in the mirrors. On the contrary, she was more disappointed in the narrator’s behavior and imagination. This is evident when the narrator states that “she pulled her lips into a little tight circle.” (Millhauser, 2011). This is a true indication that she was not impressed with the narrator love for the mirrors because she did not see anything different.
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