Over The Threshold of Maturity
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A person grows into an individual due to life experience. Extreme events cause people to make certain decisions and obtain maturity. In these initiation stories authors illustrate how the background knowledge helps people become mature or, in other words, find the meaning of life. There are different types of initiation that depict how certain life events influence the heroes’ life perception. The current essay describes the initiation types of the protagonists of the play Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl and the novel Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. The paper also explains what conflicts make the crossing of the threshold of personal maturity of the main heroines difficult.
The first play, Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, illustrates the decisive type of initiation that brings the main heroine to “maturity and understanding” (Mordecai 223). The author describes how Jean comes to the understanding of what she wants from life through the course of extreme events she chooses to undergo. From the very beginning of the story Jean is not sure about the way she should behave and is not certain about what she wants from life. Firstly, she is determined to help a dead stranger, saying, “I’ll stay with you, Gordon, as long as you need” (Ruhl 12). It is also her decision to answer the phone on his behalf and meet the family of the dead man. Jean starts a romance with Gordon’s brother – Dwight. She tries to keep the idea of the dead stranger alive and does his work instead of thinking of her own happiness. The fact that she is afraid to tell Gordon about her feeling describes her as an immature person. Moreover, she is not able to say that she is a vegetarian to Gordon’s mother because she does not want to upset her. It seems thatJean thinks only about other people and is not ready to prioritize her needs.
Thus, Jean’s inability to understand the consequences of her way of life brings her to the conflict that is crucial in the process of her maturity – her death. The heroine starts perceiving life differently when she feels loneliness in her “own planet”, thinking that life passes her by (Ruhl 90). When the protagonist realizes that she is to spend the rest of her life with Gordon, she cries, “How did I end up in your [Gordon’s] pipeline?” (Ruhl 85). In this moment Jean makes a decision to come back to the person she loves. The woman realizes that she is to decide what to do with her life. She manages to go back to reality using the phone of the dead man for her benefit - only because she is determined to become happy. At the end of the play Jean is a mature person who is not afraid of her feelings. She claims, “Let’s start loving each other right now; Dwight, not a mediocre love, but the strongest love in the world” (Ruhl 98).
The second work is the novel Dept. of Speculation, in which Jenny Offill uses the decisive initiations to describe a self-discovery of the protagonist. The authors portrays her heroine as a mature person, making her deal with conflict that occurs in her life. Initially, the author tells that the protagonist wants to become an “art monster” instead of being married (Offill 3). It shows that this woman is not mature enough to have a family. Nevertheless, she falls in love, starts a family, and gives birth to a child. Despite the fact that the woman loves her daughter, she seems to be dissatisfied with her life and cannot get used to the family life. She cannot see the point in marriage, declaring, “You know what’s punk rock about marriage? Nothing” (Offill 46). The heroine is impassionate about the life she has; thus, she works much and stops paying attenttion to her husband.
In fact, her husband’s adultery is the conflict that makes initiations difficult, but it makes the woman understand what is important to her and makes her take action. The husband’s indifference makes the heroine feel lonely and desperate. When she spends the night in the hotel alone, she realizes that it is time to change her life. The heroine decides to live in the countryside in order to have enough time for the things that bring pleasure to her and her husband. In fact, in the “isolation” from the city life, the married couple finds understanding and satisfaction again. The husband of the protagonist helps her understand that people need to give attention to those they love to maintain the state of happiness. The heroine finally realizes that married life makes her happy and she “still watches him [her husband] sleep” (Offill 187). The protagonist remembers the rabbi’s words “Three things have a flavor of the world to come: the Sabbath, the sun, and married love” (Offill 187).
In conclusion, the authors of the both stories use the decisive type of initiation to carry their protagonists into maturity and understanding of happiness. One may say that the play and the novel describe people who become mature because of the difficult situations that occur in their lives. The main heroines become adults and find the meaning of life only because of the shocking events that they have to undergo. In the play Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, the protagonist realizes that she is in charge of her life and happiness only after being dead. In the novel Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, the main heroine cannot recognize her happiness until her husband commits adultery. In both cases, conflicts influence heroines’ behavior and force them to make a self-discovery that carry them to maturity.