The School Postmodernist Ideas Essay Research Paper

The School: Postmodernist Ideas Essay, Research Paper The School: Postmodernist Ideas Barthelme’s “The School” is the first postmodernist story I have ever read.

The School: Postmodernist Ideas Essay, Research Paper

The School: Postmodernist Ideas

Barthelme’s “The School” is the first postmodernist story I have ever read.

When I read it for the first time, my lips formed a bitter smile. In my

imagination, postmodernist stories differed from the classical ones in the

arrangement of the ideas and in the standard that postmodernists reject society.

True, ?The School? does differ in composition, for example the absence of

introduction, but though it sounds somewhat comical, it does also have an

incorporated pessimism that makes me reflect on the story. I think this

pessimism is the cause that postmodernists reject society.

The notion of rejection comes in the story through the death cases. It

seems strange why Barthelme uses the notion death in his story, but I think the

reason is that this is the best way to stress that every living thing is losing

its importance. Hopeless pessimism interweaves with the idea of rejection, and I

find them together everywhere, in every death case.

For Barthelme, what is lost is unrecoverable. Pessimism, mostly expressed

in taking death naturally, spreads uniformly all over the story, from the first

paragraph about the orange trees to the last when the new gerbil enters the

classroom. In this school, where the children are supposed to receive education,

everything dies. The fish, the salamander, and the orange trees die though

children take much care of them. The teacher is pessimistic although life goes

on and a new gerbil walks in the school. Edgar says that “life is that which

gives meaning to life,” but still this does not change that Edgar knew that the

puppy would die in two weeks. He had seen worse when some parents died in a car

accident and when two children died while playing with each other in a dangerous

place. What else, but pessimism, could one expect in an environment where every

living thing, including children, is dying?

Death’s dominance in the story shows again that society, which presumably

should foster the growth of the future individuals (i.e. children), destroys

their very existence. By the end of the story, it is easy to understand that

death is the destiny of the children as well, because it would be impossible for

them to live in an environment (commonly known as ’society’) where parents

(symbol of wisdom) die. It is impossible to live in an environment where the

teacher himself is aware that whatever living creature, like the puppy for

example, that enters the school (a social institution) will eventually cease to


At this point, I become certain that “The School” is a demonstration that

pessimism drives postmodernists. As Barthelme stresses in the second to last

paragraph, death is a close companion of life. The very adjacency of death with

the kids, who do as well symbolise life as they are at the very beginning of it,

proves my point. The writer seems, besides other things, to question the very

nature of existence. One should remember the closing paragraph where the kids

ask the teacher whether death gives meaning to life. The answer he gives is that

life is what gives meaning to life. One could justly ask: why is the story full

of images of death then? Because the story seems to be a sketch of the society,

which by breeding death (death in the symbolical sense: death of the ideas, joy,

identity) prompts the postmodernists to reject it.