A Craft Analysis of “Fridge” by Stuart Dybek / Tyler Norris

In Dybek’s micro-fiction “Fridge” Dybek uses the comparison of an arctic tundra to describe the remains of old food in his refrigerator. At the beginning of the story, we take note of a minute, but important detail included by Dybek: “At midnight the expedition of the bride and groom arrives at the Fridge and pauses to get its bearings…” (17). With this inclusion, we are able to determine that this story is about the trip a couple makes to the refrigerator late at night in order to find food, but later in the story we find that all their food is expired, and the story briefly reflects on the couple’s disdain and hunger for a late night snack. Dybek writes, “even after the plug has been pulled, love can still be smothered as if it were a child playing hide-and-seek in a junked appliance” (18).

In reading this piece, what we find is a whimsical description of the relatable feeling of trying to eat late at night, but not having any food to eat. What really stands out in this piece is the poetic language used to describe the refrigerator, and the contents inside. Poetic language, to be specific, is the use of any kind of figurative description in order to better illustrate a flat image. This includes simile, metaphor, analogy and allegory, all of which can be descriptive language used to compare two generally incomparable objects for poetic effect.

Dybek does not simply tell us each thing that is in the fridge exactly as it looks, he goes into detail by comparing the fridge to a tundra, and the contents inside to the dead of Stalingrad. He writes,“Before them lies the taiga where the wolf vowel of wind penetrates the heart with the aim of a winter draft through an uncaulked bedroom window—a draft that feels its way down corridors of sleep, its Freon breath scented with the rotten moss of unmade salads and wilted scallions” (17).

If we ask what’s beautiful about this description, we must address all the items that have been put into the description to make it so effective. “Wolf vowel of wind” is not only an image that brings to mind the howl of a wolf being carried on a wind, but it also has alliteration which makes the phrase pleasant to the ear. Also, the natural image of the taiga contrasted with the architectural image of the “uncaulked bedroom window” brings the power of the taiga to a relatable place in the mind. These images of distant lands are not immediately pronounced in the mind due to a lack of experience with them, but the relatable experience of living domestically, having a refrigerator, seeing old food get expired—these can all be imagined by the general reader, and when contrasted, the two images bring about a feeling of the unfamiliar being made familiar.

The story continues with this notion of making the unfamiliar familiar, when Dybek writes,“There’s a cheese never meant to be blue. There are undesired dreams and memories preserved in an isolation in which dream and memory have become indistinguishable from one another, both smoldering like ghosts of cold around a temperature dial forced beyond its lowest subtraction” (17).

What Dybek effectively does in this piece is somewhat humorously given us an over-complication of something as simple as expired food. We might almost consider this style of humorous writing as having been done before; old hat. Yet Dybek’s ability to conjure such magnificent images leaves the reader satisfied with imaginations that are too good to ignore. In this piece, Dybek has effectively taken a style of writing (the over-illustration of a simple image) popularized by journalists, political commentators and satirists, and taken it out of the context of the cliché by writing it in such a poetic and effective way, that it makes a name for itself in the collection of works that have attempted it before him. Dybek has written an effective short story, one to be remembered for its beautiful poetic language.

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