‘The Morning After The Big Fire’ by Maeve Brennan

The Morning After The Big Fire by Maeve Brennan, 1953

The magic trick:

Showing the narrator’s selfishness in a way that seems harmless, even humorous, but that also has an air of darkness and truth

The narrator recalls a fire in her neighborhood as a child. What stands out about the experience? The fear? The worry for her neighbors? Well, no. Not at all. She remembers relishing the chance to be the one in the know. She loves it. The one negative part of the memory is when other neighbors start to know more than she does, and the spotlight starts to move away from her.

Sure, she’s not psychotic. But she’s not quite innocent. She’s relatable. She’s not a monster. She’s just like us, which makes it an uncomfortable chuckle for the reader. And that’s quite a trick on Brennan’s part.

The selection:

“You don’t tell me,” she said, making a delighted face, and the next thing I knew, she was opening her front door, more eager for news than anybody.

However, my hour of glory was short. The other children came out – some of them were actually allowed to go around and view the wreckage – and soon the fire was mine no longer, because there were others walking around who knew more about it than I did. I pretended to lose interest, although I was glad when someone – not my father – gave me a lump of twisted, blackened tin off one of the cars.

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