Tommy Nothing Fancy

“Fishing was our antidote to keep from falling into a blackness Tommy knew was there gnawing at his bones like an animal. A gravity to all his many failures.”

In this story, the narrator’s son has died from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. To them, fishing was an antidote to keep the “demons” away and to take their minds off of the sickness. The narrator chooses the word antidote because it appears to be a cure. While many medical antidotes cure sicknesses, this is more of a temporary solution for the disease for Tommy Nothing Fancy. The relief from the discomfort from the disease is found by Tommy and his father, the narrator, through fishing. Fishing is their relief, and they keep catching fish¬†until one releases itself. The fish’s release of itself and when Tommy can no longer catch the fish will symbolize his death. He’s caught on the line of life right now, and when he’s finally free from the line, he will be free from the “demons” for good, being off the hook. Blackness is the color choice of the author because it often symbolizes a helpless abyss from which one cannot see the beginning or the end. This is Tommy’s illness. It was unclear that he had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (no clear beginning), and it’s unknown how long he could survive with the disease (no clear end), and so he’s living in darkness/blackness where nothing can be seen apart from the surrounding pain. This seemingly endless pain and blackness is said to gnaw at his bones like an animal. When I think of gnawing, I think of a savage scavenging every last piece of meat off of its food until ¬†nothing’s left but the hard and destroyed bone. By the end of his life, Tommy will be destroyed mentally, as the bone appears physically, as well as having a degraded brain capacity due to the seizures associated with FAS. Furthermore, the animal represents the “demons” that haunt his mind and cause him pain and discomfort.

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3 Responses to Tommy Nothing Fancy

  1. Lindsey Grubbs says:

    Really nice work, Lauri! Pulling out the medical implications of the term “antidote” was a smart tie to the FAS, and I think you also do a nice reading of the importance of the color black in the bigger picture of the story. Honing in on the image of the bone being gnawed on is also a smart choice. You’ve pulled out the evocative images and tied them into some of the themes of this essay, and do a really nice job unpacking symbolism.

    One way to take a step farther might be to connect these things to the grammar of the sentence. What does it mean for “blackness” to be “gnawing”? It’s strange that a vague symbol is given the subject position for that verb, right?. What does that imply? And what about this weird bit that equates “fishing” to “a gravity”? That’s not the typical way we use the word gravity, so it’s a bit jarring to the reader. Why might the author want us to stop there?

    I think you’ve definitely gotten the hang of what “close reading” means, so you can push yourself now to notice smaller and smaller intricacies of the text!

  2. Lauri Anne Schleicher says:

    A gravity to all his many failures.
    This is not a grammatically complete sentence, however, the author uses its brevity to emphasize the idea of gravity. This notion holds a strong influence to our world, as it is what keeps us grounded. Tommy Nothing Fancy is grounded by his disease, which cause him to interpret many of his actions as failures. All of his many failures are being attributed to one thing as well, whether the author specifically meant his disease or if he was referring to gravity once again. The reason why this sentence’s format is important is because it requires the reader to understand each word carefully in order to make logical sense out of its’ structuring.

  3. Lindsey Grubbs says:

    Really nice reading of the incomplete sentence–I think you’re right about its effect. I am curious, though–is the “gravity” his illness, grammatically? Or is it actually fishing? Would that change your reading?

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