The Eulogy

At our last creative writing class we were asked to read a ‘performance’ piece in the allotted 5 minutes. Our tutor encourages us to take part in open mic reading nights but these seem to be mainly for poetry which is not the focus of what I’m trying to do at the moment. This may change of course.

I wrote a piece of prose about a son reluctantly giving a eulogy for his estranged father. The gist of the piece is that he recognised that the expectation is that it should be a positive and sympathetic picture of the deceased – never speak ill of the dead. On the other hand he had had a difficult relationship with his father and a positive eulogy would be mostly a fabrication. Should he tell the truth about his father? Although the piece hinted at what the truth would be when he came to deliver the eulogy he did what was expected and did not tell the truth.

Julia, my wife, suggested I should have written the story with the son telling the truth. This would have been much more interesting and much more fun. When I read it out it got a good reaction from the class but I think it would have got a better one if the son had told the truth. I have rewritten the piece as Julia suggested and it is much better.

The 5 minutes allowed meant that it could only be about 800 to 1000 words so not a lot of scope to develop it. I didn’t post the whole thing to Facebook as I had with the more lighthearted and shorter The Great Mystico but I did describe the piece and how I had been prompted to rewrite it. The post got a number of comments and suggestions and it is clear there would be mileage in this to extend it into a short story. If the opportunity arises I may give this a go. At least I will develop a more detailed outline and probably post it here.

At the moment I’m thinking of having the son give the positive sanitised eulogy but at the same time conducting in his head a critique with what he was reading and how it differed from what an alternative true account would have been. As this develops he comes to see that his true account was perhaps not doing his father justice and that there were warranted reasons for recognising his father had virtues and that many difficulties in his childhood and in the family were not under the control of his parents. It could be argued they had done their best in difficult circumstances, in fact prevailed against the odds. In the end he finishes the eulogy with much less a feeling of cynicism and bad faith and re-evaluates his father, his relationship with him and his childhood. He had come to realise that his unthinking hostility was very much still the child’s reaction and in his mature years he could and should have the experience, detachment and wisdom to see things differently, in a broader perspective and recognise the ambiguities and uncertainties in life and the frailty of men and women confronted with circumstances not of their own choosing or even understanding. The Owl of Minerva, and so on….

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