Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

For a story to have an impactful effect on a reader, it must be relatable. There are many vital aspects of a story that are crucial to creating a connection between the reader and the story being told. The plot, the character, and the setting are all important aspects of a story, but it is the theme that gives meaning and context to the story as a whole. Without the use of theme, the writer would fail to create an impactful and relevant story. In “Love and Other Catastrophes: A Mix Tape” by Amanda Brown, multiple themes such as joy, betrayal, and loneliness are artfully used to develop complexity and enhance relatability through the use of song titles.
When reading this short story, it would be easy for a person to think it as nothing but a list of song titles. That person might even think this short story is simply the work of an author that is incapable of forming an original thought and is relying on words created by fellow artists to tell her story. In truth, when a person reads this short story, he or she is not just reading the titles of songs; he or she is also inadvertently thinking about the lyrics of the song, the beat of the music, and the voice of the singer. The reason her method of using song titles works so well is because she can employ the emotions that these songs elicit to create themes all readers can relate to. Brown’s method creates a profound way to express a myriad of personal emotions through song titles.
Brown incorporates the theme of joy in her short story through a string of several song titles. Joy is an important emotion in a person’s life because it encourages creativity, increases overall happiness, and reinforces hope. Brown’s main character experiences joy at the beginning of his or her relationship, and Brown indicates this when she writes, “‘Let’s Dance'(David Bowie)’Let’s Kiss'(Beat Happening)’Let’s Talk About Sex'(Salt N’ Pepa)’Like A Virgin'(Madonna)” (Brown 84). These song titles are indicative of when two people first meet, get to know each other, and start a new relationship. Brown uses these song titles to play on the reader’s emotions through the memory of his or her first date, first kiss, first sexual experience, and first love. For Brown’s character, and most readers, all of these events are times of great joy. Clearly, the relatability of the emotion of joy is why Brown uses it as a theme in her short story.
Brown integrates the theme of betrayal through infidelity. Trust is essential for a romantic relationship to be successful, and the violation of that trust is the source of betrayal. Brown depicts the infidelity her character is going through when she writes, “‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night?'(Leadbelly)’Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?'(Shania Twain),” and she then goes on to describe the betrayal her character feels when she writes, “‘Shot Through the Heart'(Bon Jovi)” (Brown 84). These well-selected song titles are perfect for showcasing the character’s shock, realization, and pain of his or her life partner’s lies, deceit, and betrayal. Most individuals have experienced a betrayal of some kind by a person that they love or have loved. Therefore, Brown’s use of this theme is very successful in creating a connection with her readers.
The theme that Brown’s short story begins and ends with is loneliness. It can be lonely for a person if he or she do not have another person to share his or her life with, to have care about him or her, to confide secrets in, to lean on in hard times, and to experience the breath-taking extraordinary moments with. Brown’s short story starts and finishes with “‘All By Myself'(Eric Carmen)” (Brown 84). This song title does a perfect job of implying that the main character is alone and longing for a deep and meaningful connection with another person; to alleviate the loneliness he or she is feeling.
Brown goes a step further at the end of the story with “‘All Out of Love'(Air Supply)” to show the depth of the character’s loneliness (Brown 84). This song title adds to the depth of the loneliness being felt because it shows the lonesomeness at the end of the story is more profound than at the beginning. The character is feeling the same aspects of being lonely that he or she felt at the start of the story, but now those feelings are amplified by the loss of his or her intended life partner. Brown uses these two song titles to build the theme of loneliness in her character, and her short story that any reader can find relatable.
It is evident that Amanda Brown is successfully using song titles to create themes of joy, betrayal, and loneliness in her short story. In using these themes, Brown’s story is not only complex but is also relatable to a large audience. The reason these themes make this story so relatable is due to the emotional connection they create between the story and the reader. A connection that leaves the reader wondering what song titles he or she would use to tell the story of his or her own life.

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