The Bite that Tears Everything to Uncertainty

[an analysis by Juan Underbakke]


Joy Williams’ non–fiction piece, “Hawk,” focuses on her relationship with her dog and the moment her dog, Hawk, attacks her. Early on, the narrator tells the reader about the attack that is eventually going to happen later on. She teases it before switching the focus to Glenn Gould. Glen was a composer whose music was used as the score to Slaughter House Five. Glenn’s father seemed to care more about his new wife, Glenn’s stepmother, than his own son, “He didn’t want him to die on his stepmother’s birthday.” Williams goes to great length to explain who Glenn Gould was, she even tells the reader how much money he donated in his will to the Humane Society. However Williams’ thoughts confess she knows nothing about Glenn Gould. Williams even goes on to describe the words on Glenn’s tombstone and the meaning behind them. The narrator then divulges her life, but only in relation to her dog. She reflects about past dogs she’s had and the dogs her parents had when she was growing up. One day after Williams felt a sharp pain that became too intense to bare, the narrator’s friends took her to the doctor. However before Williams goes, she drops off Hawk, her dog, at the kennel. Suddenly her friendly and very close dog attacks her. As a result of the attack, one of her hands will never be able to work the same. The injuries that Williams endures do not bother her too much. She is more torn and hurt by the fact she has lost her German Shepard companion, Hawk.

At home, I stood in the shower, howling, making deep ugly sounds. I had lost my dog.

The Band-Aids we put over my cuts had cartoon characters all over them. We didn’t take our medicine cabinet seriously. For some reason I had papered it with newspaper pictures of Bob Dole’s hand clutching its pen. I put clean clothes on but the blood seeped around the Band-Aids and stained them too. I put more Goofy and Minnie Band Aids on and changed my clothes again.

I wrapped my hand in the dish towel. Hawk’s water dish was still in the kitchen, his toys were scattered around. (pg 546)

There are several elements at work to make this piece what it is. That being said, I believe Joy Williams relies heavily on characterization, both direct and indirect, in Hawk. By characterization, I mean the craft of conveying information/descriptions that lead to a character being fully rounded or not. Not all characters need to be fully developed. At times, Williams has her characterization “doing double work” and sometimes even “triple work.” She uses direct and indirect at the same time. I think the brief passage above illustrates a key moment of the story as well as revealing the level of characterizations that occurred.

All the characterizations that Williams uses after the line, “I had lost my dog,” effectively emphasize the narrator’s fixation on the tiny details of her Band-Aid, such as there their appearance, “I put on more Goofy and Minnie Band-aids.” This shows the level of shock and disbelief the narrator was experiencing. The author is using indirect characterization here to show the mindset of a woman who had just been attacked by her and dog and thereby lost him. The narrator copes with the loss of “Hawk” by examining her bathroom, “for some reason I had papered it with newspaper pictures of Bob Dole’s hand clutching its pen.” While the attention to detail would seem out of the ordinary for someone who had been attacked by a dog at the surface level, it exposes the broken psyche of the narrator. Joy Williams effectively uses indirect and direct methods of characterization to develop and illustrate the well-rounded characters of Glenn Gould, Hawk, and the Narrator. Williams dramatically used both forms of characterization.



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