Gryphon by Charles Morley Baxter Misunderstandings Are Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Gryphon" by Charles Morley Baxter

Misunderstandings are the essence of tragedy. Nowhere is this true than in the short story Gryphon, in which a fourth-grade teacher gets sick and a substitute teacher, Miss Ferenczi, appears before his class the next day. She is poorly qualified and appears to have psychological disturbances the students recognize quickly, although none of them knows what to do about it. At one point, she recounts seeing a gryphon -- "an animal in a cage, a monster, half bird and half lion" -- while traveling in Egypt. She tells the fourth-graders other wild tales, which only some of them believe. "She lies," says one kid on the school bus afterward. Eventually, after her eccentric behavior reaches a strange climax, one of the fourth-graders tells on Miss Ferenczi to the school principal, and she leaves by noon that day. In this story, Baxter's descriptions of children's collective and individual intelligence are utterly convincing; told through the eyes of a student, the story evokes a childhood experience one is not likely to forget through repeated use of striking animal imagery.

Charles Morley Baxter an American author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He was born May 13, 1947 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to John and Mary Barber (Eaton) Baxter. Charles graduated with his B.A. from Macalester College in Saint Paul, and then taught high school in Pinconning, Michigan for a year. By reading this paper you will become more familiar with Charles Baxter and one of his short stories "Gryphon."

In 1947, he received his Ph.D. In English from the University of Buffalo with a thesis on Djunna Barnes, Malcolm Lowry, and Nathanael West (Citation). Baxter began his University teaching career at Wayne State University in Detroit. He then moved to the University of Michigan, where he for many years directed the Creative Writing program. Baxter now teaches at the University of Minnesota. Charles married a woman named Martha Ann Hauser (a teacher), his child is Daniel John.

In 1984 Baxter published his first collection of short stories, Harmony of the World, which won the Associated Writing Programs Award for short fiction. The title story was included in the 1982 Pushcart Prize anthology and in Best American short stories 1982. In 1985 Charles Baxter followed with his second collection, Through the Safety Net, which contained his often-reprinted story "Gryphon," about an unusual knowledge of mythology and superstition. That piece afterward appeared in Best American Short Stories (1990), edited by Shannon Ravenel. Baxter's 1990 collection of short stories, A Relative Stranger, features characters "constantly having odd encounters with strangers that disrupt their quiet, humdrum lives and send them skidding in unexpected new directions," Kakutani stated in a New York Times review. In one story, a man's attempt to help an insane, homeless man triggers the jealousy of his wife and son. In another, a woman who is secretly in love with her husband's best friend develops a ridiculous fear of burglars. Describing the couple's suburban home as one of many "little rectangular temples of light," the friend scoffs at the wife's fear. "Nothing here, but families and fireplaces and Duraflame logs and children of God."

He has also published three novels and a book of essays about fiction, "Burning down the House (1997)." The essays explore the nature of the imaginations hold on the common place things of daily life and how one lives in the pressure of that hold as a creative writer. Charles Baxter's short fiction is focused on middle-class lifestyles. Sometimes in his writing he is patient, sometimes distant, sometimes harsh minded about middle-class life. Writer Charles Baxter treats his imperfect, neurotic characters and lonely landscapes with a deep affection that makes loneliness seem almost underrated. An accomplished novelist, and short-story writer, Baxter received approval for his 2000 novel, The Feast of Love, a National Book Award finalist that was made into a film starring Morgan Freeman (Wikipedia). His latest novel, The Soul Thief, is a 2009 Minnesota Book Award finalist. Born in Minneapolis, Baxter graduated from Macalester College, and then took a 30-year hiatus from his home state to teach in New York and Michigan. In 2003, he returned to the Twin Cities, where he teaches at the University Of Minnesota and writes whenever he's not distracted by coffee or ice cream. Decider recently sat down with the writer and discussed how hard it is to work while the lure of a caffeinated wander is literally just around the corner.

"Gryphon," a short story, was initially published in Baxter's collection of short stories "Through the Safety Net." The story was well established and has since been featured in numerous other texts including American Short stories (7th edition), The Best American Short Stories 1986, and Modern Fiction about School Teaching. "Gryphon" was made into a film by PBS, and was read on Chicago's WBEZ radio station. (Mandell)

A lot of people when reading this short story wonder what a "Gryphon" (also spelt Griffin)? A Gryphon is a mythological creature with the head (including talons) and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Its first recorded appearance is believed to be Mesopotamian, though some sources indicate even ancient Sumer may have gryphon's, and from there they made their way through Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Turkish, and a variety of other European cultures. In Greek mythology, gryphon's guarded the gold of the Hyperborean's. According to different legends, they would either attack any who tried to claim the gold, ripping them to pieces, or would drag them high into the air and then drop them to their deaths. The story of the Hyperborean as appearing in the lost impressive poem The Arimaspelia, Griffins were frequently associated with the guarding of the gold by Greek writers, and in later ages Gryphons remain associated with wealth and guardianship. (Hoffman)

Charles Baxter is asked many questions about "Gryphon." In order for students to understand the short story, Baxter answered some of the most common questions on his website. A lot of the readers including myself wondered why the title of the story called "Gryphon"? What does the idea of a gryphon bring to the story? Baxter replied "Ms. Ferenczi mentions the gryphon as an animal she's actually seen in Egypt. A gryphon, however, is an entirely imaginary creature, half eagle and half lion. In other words, a gryphon is made up of parts from the world; these parts are combined in order to create a new, imaginary thing that does not exist in the world until someone thinks of it. She seems to feel that young people should be exposed to exotic facts and possibility of this sort. And of course it's possible to read the story with Ms. Ferenczi as something of a gryphon herself half in this world, a world of concrete objects, and half out-of-this-world." Another question was "At one point in the story, Ms. Ferenczi suggests to the class that they consider the notion that "six times eleven equals sixty-eight as a substitute fact." Does the idea of the "substitute fact" have a broader importance in the story?" Baxter: Sometimes "substitute facts" are simply wrong, or incorrect, but sometimes they are products of myth, or of the imagination. Ms. Ferenczi likes to expose the members of the class to amazing facts (some of which are true, some of which are mythic, and some of which are simply untrue) as a way of expanding their sense of wonder. The plot is mainly psychological; Time of work is the late twentieth century, the setting Five Oaks Michigan. (Baxter)

"Gryphon" is a short story by Charles Baxter that was published in 1985. The first person point-of-view Baxter chose allows us to understand the story better. It also allows Tommy to portray his personal feelings toward his substitute teacher,…

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