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“Into the Gorge” is no less heartbreaking than the other stories in Rash’s Burning Bright.  This story takes an interesting turn right from the beginning when the main character is described as a supplement to the character described in the opening paragraph. It is Jesse’s aunt who is described rather than Jesse himself. This is an interesting tactic as it immediately makes the reader attached to the aunt, only to tear her away just as soon.

Ron Rash seems to have cultivated his own way to break a reader’s heart. His direct writing is equally as intense at is it easy to understand. It is the subtle things that have that effect. For example, on page 134 towards the middle it says “His great-aunt never looked up…” emphasizing the fact that the woman related to the land in the story is his “great-aunt” and not just any body. Rash could have just as easily written “she” as a replacement, yet consciously chose not to.

I noted in this story, that it is very descriptive, yet not as matter-of-fact as the other Rash stories. It may seem a little unfair to compare the stories in this anthology to one another but it is very helpful to see which situations the author chose to react certain ways in, as far as format and strategy go, and why. Choosing to be less open about the subject of the story forces the reader to dig a little deeper. That is another decision that the author had to make when writing the story, whether or not the content was worthy of depth, or for pure story-telling value.

On pages 136 and 137 there are a few interesting things going on that caught my eye. First of all, the very first sentence, “Till I’m seventy, Jesse figured, giving himself two more years,” was an interesting way to directly inform the reader how old Jesse is. It was also intriguing to me that quotes or some other sort of distinctive punctuation wasn’t used to emphasize his thought or speech. This was also down towards the bottom of the page where it says, “Led the son of a bitch right to it, he told himself…”

Also on page 137, I learned a lesson. To stop thinking that the narrator and the main character are seeing from the same point of view. I get easily confused by weird statements like, “Jesse saw boot prints from three days earlier,” and immediately wonder…how would he know they were from three days earlier? causing me to distrust the narrator. I have come to realize, however, that the narrator can tell us the boot prints were three days old with out Jesse having known it at all. I think that is a very important thing for me to have a realized and am glad I made note of it the first time I read through. (With loads of question marks and arrows, naturally.)

Generally, Rash has effectively broken my heart yet again, without leaving me running towards the nearest cliff. Its fascinating how peacefully he can conclude the most heart-wrenching stories.

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