LOBSTER NIGHT Russell Banks
Write an essay exploring Russell Banks’s °Lobster Night’ Your essay should focus on one or more of the following topics, but you needn’t consider
this list comprehensive:
• Masculinity • Power • Violence • Lust/Sexuality • Revelation • Animal Nature. This essay must have an argumentative thesis. This thesis should
appear in your introduction, and the thesis font should be rendered bold. Yes, I want the thesis to be bold.
Length: 750-1000 words
Thematic Analysis of Russell Banks’ Lobster Night
Russell Banks uses different literary devices and techniques for thematic, character, and plot development. Set in Adirondack during summer, the story revolves around Stacy, Noonan, Gail, the LaPierre brothers among other characters. It integrates different elements to bring out the themes and characters effectively. Russell Banks shows literary mastery in the way he develops the story and the characters and manages to keep the reader interested and hooked throughout the short story. A thematic analysis of the Lobster Night is fundamental to enhancing the understanding of the work. This essay argues that Russell Banks relies greatly on the themes cruelty and masculinity to develop the themes of violence, power and dominance.
Through the characters of Stacy and Noonan, Banks manages to develop the theme of violence comprehensively. Russell Banks shows the desire by humans to exude power through violence. The theme of violence is developed through the character of Stacy, who serves as a summertime bartender at Noonan’s, a family restaurant owned by Noonan. According to the narrator, Stacy shoots and kills Noonan, after telling him of her past experience of being struck by lightning. According to the narrator, “The night that Stacy told Noonan about the lightning was also the night she shot and killed him” (Banks, 2000). Stacy’s act shows the struggle to have power over Noonan and events surrounding their relationship. Noonan bullies his employees, some (LaPierre and his brother) to the extent of resigning mid-work and others (Gail) to the point of breaking down. He shoves a live lobster at Stacy’s face and suggests that she boils it. The Noonan’s cruelty exposes Stacy’s desire for power and control over herself and the situation. According to the Lobster Night, after shooting and killing Noonan, Stacy feels a sense of freedom and power. Russell writes, “Never in her life, never, had Stacy known the relief she felt at that moment. And not since the moment before she was struck by lightning had she known the freedom” (Banks, 2000). This builds on the argument that the author utilizes the themes of cruelty and violence to develop the themes of power, control and dominance.
In the development of the theme of violence, Banks integrates the theme of cruelty as shown by Noonan. The cruelty of Noonan towards animals helps develop the theme of violence. The narrator states that Noonan was a lifelong hunter, mainly of deer, rabbits, and game birds, which served as food for his family but sometimes served in the restaurant. However, the height of cruelty and violence towards animals is evident in that he shot and trapped animals he had no use for such as lynxes, foxes, bears, and coyotes. The sadism and cruelty of Noonan are brought out clearly by the narrator who says, “Noonan was a dedicated, lifelong hunter–mainly of deer, but also of game birds and rabbits, which he fed to his family and sometimes put on the restaurant menu as well” (Banks, 2000). The hunting, shooting and killing animals and game birds unnecessarily reveal Noonan’s behaviour of using violence and cruelty as tools of showing power. The author uses the theme of violence/cruelty to develop Noonan and the theme of power.
Banks develops the theme of animal nature through Noonan’s cruelty towards animals. In the description of Lobster Night, the narrator states that it became everybody’s favourite night for eating out, which required Noonan to increase the order for lobsters to meet the demand. However, Noonan does not bother acquiring a tropical-fish tank that can accommodate the live lobsters but rather continues using his son’s small tank that crowds the creatures, in what Stacy views as an abuse of the lobsters. The author writes, “… soon Noonan was doubling his weekly order, jamming the fish tank and making Lobster Night an almost merciful event for the poor crowded creatures” (Banks, 2000). When Stacy suggests that Noonan gets a bigger tank, he asserts that the crowded tank was like heaven for the lobsters and argues that despite not knowing the difference, the lobsters were dumber than fish. Additionally, Noonan boils a live lobster and even asserts that the struggle by the lobster to get out of the boiling water before it dies is a turn-on. These events show Noonan’s nature of showing dominance and power over his subjects using cruelty.
In conclusion, power and masculinity among men are often shown through cruelty and mistreatment, to depict other people or things as inferior. The themes of power and masculinity in Lobster Night are developed through the themes of cruelty, mistreatment, and violence. Male customers harass women waiters as a show of masculinity and power of them. The narrator says Stacy “had cultivated a set of open-faced, wiseguy ways and a laid-back manner that protected her from her male customers’ presumptions” (Banks, 2000). Additionally, violence is portrayed as a weapon used by men to feel powerful. In describing the events of a bear attack in a cabin, Noonan shows violent behaviour as necessary to showing dominance and control. The same aspect is portrayed when he seems regretful for shooting a bear eight times instead of two rounds when everyone else seemed angry at him for killing the bear (Banks, 2000). It is arguable that Noonan is extremely obsessed with using cruelty as a form of asserting power to the point where his nature as a human is clouded. The different incidences show Russell’s integration of themes, especially the themes of cruelty, masculinity, power and dominance to develop the story.
Banks, R. (2000). Lobster Night. Esquire, 133(3), 226.
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