Sunday, August 26, 2018

"Smokers" by Tobias Wolff --- Summary

In the short story "Smokers" by Tobias Wolff, the narrator told about his experience of studying in a school, Choate, and living in a dormitory. The narrator noticed his future classmate, Eugene in the train on the way to the school when he struck between doors with his two enormous suitcases. His appearance was unusual. As the narrator said, "His head was too big for his lanky body, and his skin was oily. He put me in mind of a seal."

Eugene sat into a coach where the narrator sat and started talking. His told about his success in studies and sport, about the future life in the school where they were going to study. The narrator listened to Eugene and thought, "I knew the world Eugene came from. I came from that world myself, and I wanted to leave it behind. I wanted to know boys whose fathers ran banks and held Cabinet office and wrote books. I wanted to be their friend and go home with them on vacation and someday marry one of their sisters, and Eugene Miller didn't have much of a place in these plans.". At the end of a journey, Eugene suggested the narrator to room with him. The narrator had the other plans, so he answered that he had a friend at Choate and he'd probably be rooming with him. "That's okay," Eugene said. "Maybe next year"

The narrator's roommate became a boy who described himself as a Nazi. After a while, that troublemaking boy left the college and the narrator started living alone in the room. Meanwhile, Eugene roomed with a boy named Talbot. Talbot's family was very rich. The narrator dreamed to say sometimes casually mentioning Talbot "We're just good friends". So when Talbot said "Let's go have a weed", the narrator agreed with no doubts even he never smoked before.

Smoking at college was strongly forbidden. Eugene, Talbot, and narrator hid in the remote place and smoked. Talbot said a silly joke about Marlboro and the narrator guffawed although the joke was lame.

The narrator saw Talbot several times next week but he barely nodded to him. But on Friday night he asked the narrator if he wanted to play tennis the next morning. The narrator was very glad, felt the complete self-satisfaction to get this invitation. However Talbot missed this appointment and when the narrator reminded of it, he showed no interest.

Before the Christmas, the narrator had a conversation with Eugene about the place for the vacation. Eugene said that he was invited to spend Christmas with Talbot and his family. The narrator was very surprised, even shocked by this news, he was jealous very much.

After the Christmas, the narrator and Talbot spend more time in the basketball-hall. However, they sat on the bench most of the time, Talbot because of an ankle injury, the narrator because he was not good in a game.

The narrator wrote a few stories and they were published in the school literary journal. The narrator never mentioned Talbot about it, but somehow he got the idea the narrator was a writer. Once Talbot asked the narrator to read the essay he wrote for which he received the lowest score possible. The task was to describe the most interesting person you know. The narrator read the essay. The writing was awful, but what really shocked the narrator was the absolute lack of interest Talbot about the person he described. Eventually, the narrator wrote for Talbot the essay about imagined character and this writing had a great success.

The school organized the bulletin board where students could write a notice of those students who wished to room together. The narrator went immediately to Talbot's dorm. There was only Eugene there. Eugene welcomed the narrator friendly and asked about if he wanted to room with him. This is the dialog written in the story:
"Oh, well, you know, I sort of promised this other guy."
Eugene nodded, still smiling. "Fair enough. I already had someone ask me, I just thought I'd check with you first. Since we didn't have a chance to room together this year.

Later, the narrator asked Talbot whom we planned to room with. The answer shocked the narrator, it was Eugene. He told Talbot that he would not be able to help him with writing, he was not going to play basketball anymore.

Soon after that, Eugene was caught by the school administration smoking. He was expelled from the school. When Talbot asked the narrator to room with him, he refused.

The story includes mostly dialogues and thoughts of the main character. The narrator is sincere in describing his thoughts and motives even if they characterized not the best features of his personality. Readers can admit that the future Talbot wouldn't be bright because of his indifference to the people and absence of the interest in life. On the contrary, the future of the narrator looks good. He has a talent for writing and he is able to be self-critical. All personages in the story well recognizable and it makes the story interesting and instructive.

This is the link to the text of the story:

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