The story ‘Arcturus’ by David Guterson presents the inner conflicts of a person d Carl James who visits Little Nelson River for camping. As he reaches the place where he has spent his teen years, he wonders how destiny has changed his life and how he has irrevocably moved away from his teenage friend Floyd. Seeing the difference between Floyd and him, Carl understands the way destiny sets different courses for each person. The story reveals how the river of life makes dynamic even those who love to be static.
The story catches readers’ attention because one finds the thoughts of the characters very similar to one’s own thoughts. There is melancholy, solitude, and the desire to go back to the past. The story seems very much lovable because of the beauty of writing and the originality of the situation. In fact, it does not seem a story; instead, it can be termed as a true portrayal of the reflections of any old person who is just amazed about the way life unfolds.
The major character in the story is Carl James who comes to Little Nelson River with his wife Louise for camping. In fact, he has come to this place because he and his friend Floyd started their life from this place. Their life in the past was both challenging and interesting as he remembers. They did all odd jobs (132) for a living and spent time together drinking beer, bothering girls, engaging in water sports in Little Nelson and eating hamburgers.
As Carl is still highly obsessed with the past and as everything ranging from beer bottles, teenagers and the river takes him back to the memories of the past, one gets the feeling that the character is highly static in nature. However, when Carl meets Floyd who is rotted, Carl is so shocked that he is not able to talk to him. He is astonished by the fact that he has moved far ahead. Thus, one gets the insight that though the character seems static, he is dynamic in nature despite his initial inability to notice it. Other characters like his wife Louise and friend Floyd are minor in nature.
Admittedly, the story presents conflicts that are internal in nature. Though it is rather difficult to clearly define the underlying conflicts, one can find two conflicts. The first is between man and destiny and the second is between man and himself. Admittedly, Carl is surprised by the fact that destiny has made Floyd and him reach totally different destinations.
In order to present the uncertainty and mystery surrounding life, the author uses the images of the river and stars. Using a river in the background, the author points his fingers towards the various twists and turns in one’s life. As it is stated, there are whirls, rapids, and calm waters (134). Thus, when Carl again meets Floyd in their lives, they have changed a lot. Here, Carl is saddened by what destiny has done to Floyd and feels sorry for meeting Floyd. Thus, there arises a conflict between man and destiny.
The second conflict is between man and himself. This conflict is seen in the fact that Carl was, and is, eager to go camping near Little Nelson River where he gets a chance to recall the days he spent there with his close friend Floyd. The man who is still a victim of his past wants to get the same experience even now. However, on meeting Floyd, there is conflict. Instead of admitting the realities, Carl feels revulsion seeing the harsh realities of his past (130). Thus, Floyd remains as a true reminder of the past. However, this true reminder has a negative impact on Carl. At this point, Carl feels sorry for visiting the past. Thus, there is a conflict between man and himself.
The author has selected such a setting that suits the story and the plot. This is so because for the story, the main character Carl has to reach such a place back where the memories resurrect with lust and vigor. For example, the beer-drinking teenagers remind Carl of his young days, (130) and the river makes him think about the uncertain twists and turns of life. Also, the Arcturus star makes him think about the mysteries of life and the smallness of human beings in the universe.
The narrator appears as a third-person observer but uses such a language that reveals that the reflections of the main character Carl are the reflections of the narrator. The narrator presents his own points of view through the reflections of the main character Carl.
Evidently, the title of the story has an important role in revealing the narrator’s position. The star Arcturus represents the mysteries and uncertainties of life that destiny has set for each person.
Guterson, David. “Arcturus”.