Is this really goodbye? One Summer by David Baldacci

[In the following essay KM reviews the use of symbolism throughout One Summer that causes a deeper internal conflict between a main character, Jack Armstrong.]

Saying goodbye seemed to be a reoccurring theme in One Summer especially for main character, Jack Armstrong. Jack, after being told that he had a fatal disease causing him to only have 8 months to live, prepared to say goodbye to the love of his life Lizzie. While on his death bed, noting every last breath, he began to write letters: five letters for the five days left until Christmas, until he could not hold on any longer. These letters physically became a symbolic gesture for main character, Jack. When told that Lizzie had died in a tragic car accident, the letters became even more important because she never got to read them. “There are things I want to say to you that I just don’t have the breath for anymore. That’s why I’ve decided to write you these letters. I want you to have them after I am gone. They are not mean to be sad, just my chance to talk to you one more time.” (55) These letters symbolized the relationship between Jack and Lizzie; there are plenty symbols of this but thought-out the novel these letters were always a main focus. Jack and Lizzie were high school sweethearts, always being by each other’s side, even if he was at war for part of their marriage. But when Lizzie was gone jack kept this letters tucked away in his pocket, to show that his love for her was not something he could toss away so easily.

After Lizzie’s death, there was another death in the family: Lizzie’s grandmother, Cecilia. Cecilia left Jack and his kids a place called “The Palace”. It was a home that Lizzie spent a lot of time in as a child and belonged to the family, and her last wish that Jack heard was that she wanted to take the kids to the palace during the summer. Of course Jack would jump to it; so in hopes to bond with the family more after being gone so long, the single parent packed his kids up and his friend Sammy to head for the palace. The palace was located on the beach with one of the main focuses being the lighthouse on the property; also known as “Lizzie’s Lighthouse”.

In the beginning of this novel, Jack’s main problem is the conflict between him and his family. After working himself to strength, he took on being a single parent but he was gone throughout his three kids lives for too long that is was like starting a whole new chapter in their lives. Oldest daughter, Mikki, was the hardest conflict Jack had to face. She was that typical “mood swingy” teenager daughter who wants nothing to do with her father or the world for that matter. But she was actually scared. How would you feel knowing you just lost your mother and your father only had a few days to live? Pretty awful I would say. But Mikki, Corey and Jack Jr. (His kids) were the reason Jack kept holding on, he needed to survive for his family. “You can do this, Jack. He looked around frantically, but he was all alone. You can do this, honey. It was Lizzie. It couldn’t be, of course, but it was. He closed his eyes. ‘Can I?’ He asked. Yes, she said. You have to Jack. For the children.” (46)

While struggling to build his family back up, Jack was struggling with mourning also. People mourn in different ways, but for Jack, he found comfort in using his hands. Meaning, he would build things, or fix things, anything of the sort he would do; he was a handy man. A main project that he had was restoring the old lighthouse on the palace property. Every lighthouse has a light, and in this lighthouse the light was broken. No matter how many times Jack tried to fix this light, it would not work, and he spent days after days working on this light. He actually became so obsessed with this light that he forgot why he came to the palace in this first place: To be with his family. This lighthouse, specifically the light, symbolizes Jack’s family. At the beginning of this summer, the family was broken in two: Kids vs. dad, but at the end of the summer, things were the way they should be: One happy family. The way their family is like the light is because at the beginning of the summer, the light was broken, but once Jack decided that he only worked on the lighthouse because it kept him closer to Lizzie, he stopped and focused on his family. And the only time he needed that light to work, was to find Mikki, and it worked.
“‘It’s going to work tonight! Because I’m going to find my daughter’, Jack shouted back at him . . . As Sammy watched him work, he said, “But we need a searchlight, not something that’s going to—‘“There’s a manual feature,” Jack snapped as he squeezed his body into a narrow crevice to check the wiring there. “The light path can be manipulated by hand.” . . . (300) “He dropped to his knees, scuttled forward, and hit the gap with his flashlight. Two wires were revealed. They were less than a centimeter apart, but not touching.” (302)

The last line of that passage became a symbolic in the way that Jack and his family were less than a centimeter apart, but not even close to being a family. But, once Jack realized that he was not focusing on his family the way he should be, he was able to bring them together, causing the light to physically and emotionally go on.
Jack being able to get this family together didn’t happen overnight, it took a lot of baby steps for him to realize this, and a symbolic pair of shoes showed this. “Jack fell asleep that night with the tiny pair of pink sneakers on his chest.” (118) Lizzie gave him the strength to hold on, to fight for his family. It began with baby steps, but he got there and after internally fighting for his will to hold on to a piece of Lizzie and to be with his family, he was able to conquer both.
K.M 2012

To kill or not to kill? The Innocent by David Baldacci

[In this literary criticism, KM reviews the theme of aggression in The Innocent by David Baldacci as means of being humane or inhumane]

First off, there must be a reason why people don’t go around saying “I’m an assassin!” Typically that word has a negative connotation because no one really wants to be around a professionally trained killer. As for Robie though, in The Innocent, that is really his job. Not to go around saying he’s an assassin, but to actually be an assassin for the United States Government: His job is to kill, he gets a flash drive with his job on it telling him what to do and he does it whether he wants to or not. Robie’s character is a much laid back kind of guy who gets his job done, and has no problems in the process until one little stunt comes around that makes him question his job.

“In one corner was a collapsible playpen. On two walls were pieces of construction paper taped up. There were stick-figure kids and stick –figure woman with messy hair. In childish script were the word “I” and the word “mom” separated by a crude drawing of a heart. There were also toys piled in one corner. All this gave Robie a pause. I’m here to kill a young mother. The flash drive said nothing about the kids.” (46)

Once Robie realizes that this mission involves a young mother and kids, the question of it being humane and inhumane comes into play. Does he shoot and finish out his mission, or actually stand up for something? He didn’t kill them.

The Innocent creates a lot of controversy because many people are killed mindlessly in this novel, but is it humane or inhumane? In the beginning of this novel, Robie kills a price, Khalid ban Talal because he’s a Russian apparently doing threatening things to the United States Government. Was it right that he killed him or should it have been worked out another way? This question is not only debated in this novel but even debated worldwide, for example the debate of having death row. Everyone is going to have their different opinions on whether it is humane or inhumane and that’s that. In this novel, to Robie this is his job. It’s not a person with a mind or a family or any other attachments, it’s a target and his job is to kill it.

Then why not a child and a mother? What makes that so different?

Robie’s character is an aggressive one, not only in the way that he kills but in the way that he protects. And to Robie, there’s a line he does not want to cross when it comes to killing someone. Killing a man who has been mindlessly killing others is one thing but killing a woman who looks innocent with two kids is another.

“Robie could read a lot from a little. But what happened next was not something that he had anticipated at all. The man screamed. Robie would have too, since pepper spray stung like hell when it hit the eyes. The girl was still gripping her paperback, keeping her current page. She had not even turned in her seat. He had just fired the spray backward over her head, nailing her attacker directly in the face. However, the man was still moving forward even as he screamed and clawed at his eyes with one of his hands. The other hand found purchase on the girl’s back at about the time Robie’s pistol collided with the man’s skull, sending him crashing down to the floor of the bus.” (59)

In this passage the form of aggression in violence and protection is used. Robie boarded a bus after the incident with the woman occurred and found himself on a bus with another professional killer; who was going after a young girl, maybe mid teens. Robie didn’t know the situation that was going on but he knew that this girl was going to be dead in a few minutes if he didn’t stop this man. Again, aggression was used in violence to kill but this time also to protect a young girl from death.

A major cause in the theme of aggression in The Innocent is the fact that Robie did not kill the woman (Noted her name is Jane Wind). Because of this, Robie messed up an entire mission and now he has to try and save his life because the assassin is now the one being assassinated.

Later on we find out that the girl that Robie saved parents have been killed, and somehow their murder is linked to Robie. “’They want you dead. And when they get the chance, they won’t hesitate for a second. You’ll be dead. And there’s no rest button to hit.’ ‘What if I told you I don’t care?’ ‘I’d say you’re young and think you’re immortal.’ ‘I know I’m going to die one day. The question is when and how.’ ‘And the answers should be eight decades from now and peacefully in your sleep.’ ‘That’s not how life works. At least not my life.’ ‘It’s not smart to be thinking that way.’ ‘Look who’s talking. You don’t exactly lead a cautious life.’ ‘My choice.’ (228)

Choice. To kill or not to kill? Humane or Inhumane? The question is what you believe in because everyone is going to have their opinion and as for Robie in the novel, this is his job but there’s a limit. He may use aggression in wrong ways and he may use them in right ways but the theme of aggression is meant to show that it can be taken two ways, but there’s always going to be someone there to question it.
K.M 2012