So, I’m trying an experiment. When I was in high school, some of our English class assignments would be to analyze short stories and other works of literature, trying to parse symbolism, word choice, and tone, among other things. I rather enjoyed these exercises, and so I’m trying them again on my own time. If you have recommendations for me for short stories to read and analyze, feel free to send them in via my contact form.
The first story that I’m going to analyze for this series is the piece “Her” in the collection Blood Drops by WB Welch (buy here). Fair warning: This analysis will completely spoil “Her” (the first story in the collection). I purchased Blood Drops because for this series of analyses, I needed short stories for material, and Blood Drops was a collection that I knew about that came recommended by Tory Hunter, a mutual on Twitter. Thus far, I’m happy with my purchase, as “Her” was a satisfying short story with strong symbolism that I could dig into. Let’s get started.
A summary of “Her” is as follows: Annie, a bookworm, meets an attractive young woman at a bar, takes her home for the night, then commits murder-suicide the morning after. My intent here is not to prove to you that Annie committed the murder-suicide because she didn’t want their love to die before they did, as Annie almost says as much and my analysis would be redundant. My intent here is to show the various ways in which the ending, while shocking, was well-foreshadowed by aspects of Annie’s character and the symbolism of the fire and marshmallows.
Annie’s background and surroundings suggest that Annie is exactly the kind of person who would romanticize love in general and especially the “honeymoon period” of love, though perhaps by themselves they need not have pointed to the twisted romanticizing we see out of her. We learn early on in the short story that Annie is both single and an only child, establishing that she doesn’t have some relationships that other people do and suggesting loneliness, which is characterized by a desire for contact. This loneliness is stealthily confirmed by the fact that after the murder-suicide, it takes three days for anyone to find and move the bodies. More than that, Annie is a bookworm, and of the books we see on her shelves, I recognize at least some romance novels. Annie, therefore, is a lonely person who reads a lot of fictional romance, and such people generally want romance for themselves. However, the fact that it takes three days for someone to find the bodies, as well as some comments by Annie regarding an opinion that perfect love never lasts, also suggest that Annie has tried romance before and been unsatisfied, causing her to believe that lasting love isn’t real. This may even apply to platonic and familial relationships.
Beyond that, the s’mores scene neatly foreshadows the murder-suicide at the end of the short story and the mindset Annie has toward love. The images of the marshmallows (which are described as having “white skin”) burning in the fireplace and the bodies of the lovers decaying on the bed are very parallel and both “warm” (with the fire and the sunlight), and I doubt this was an accident, given that fire is also a symbol of passion. Annie, in the end, wants to have the fire of passion, just like her partner (who was the one to request the fire)…but she wants to be consumed in it without ever seeing the fire die, just like the marshmallows were consumed.
On the whole, “Her” was very well-constructed. While I don’t want to spoil the entire collection, I may include one or two more analyses from Blood Drops, so stay tuned!