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The Best Fiend

Senior woman laying in hospital bed

Senior woman laying in hospital bed

The most interesting part of Amy Hampel’s “The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried” is when The Best Friend leaves when she knows the extra bed was brought in for her.  She chooses not to stay for what could be her friend’s last hours.  The narrator is afraid to stay with her friend even though she knows her dying friend is afraid to die alone.  Even when faced with an opportunity to improve the last moments of a woman she considers to be her friend, she chooses selfishness instead.  This is also the reason she has not come to visit her friend earlier.  She was too afraid and she allowed her fear to make her selfish.  This is a conflict often seen in all different types of genres, but usually the protagonist overcomes the fear either by acting selflessly or by wishing to act selflessly.  This is not the case in “The Cemetery pondWhere Al Jolson is Buried.”  In this story the narrator does not overcome her fear and her friend does not receive a cure at the very last second.  There is no happy ending, but it could be that by leaving she was avoiding a situation where a memory that her friend would want to keep would be made.  It could be that her selfish act, most likely unintentionally, helped to fulfill her friend’s last request, and that makes the ending just slightly less sad than I had originally thought.


One Response to “The Best Fiend”

  1. McKenna: I guess I’m not persuaded that this story aims to expose the narrator’s selfishness. Her grief, her love for her friend, the sheer devastation of facing her friend’s death — all of these do certainly repel her and remind her of her own mortality. But I just don’t see the kind of moralizing judgment in the story that you do.

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