The main character in “Ferris Wheels” is the narrator, from whom we can guess that she is a woman in her mid-thirties, although the author doesn’t give any personal details about her, not even her name. However, as we read on, we start to find out about her life and especially about her personality. She tells the story in the first person singular of the present tense, as though it was happening at the same time you’re reading it, which gives you a feeling of realism and makes you get involved in it, becoming an active reader. She also makes use of the past tense a few times, but only when she remembers about past events in her life. She’s the most active character within the plot. As a matter of fact the whole story turns around her and her thoughts and reflections on life as she tries to decide whether she wants to marry her boyfriend or not. That’s why in this section I’ll concentrate on her, and as we don’t know her name, I’ll just call her “SHE”.
The other important character in “Ferris Wheels” is the narrator’s boyfriend, from whom we also get quite a clear picture. Although his role is rather passive and his character is not as well defined, we’ll soon discover that his personality is a clear counterpoint to hers. We don’t know his name either, so I’ll call him “HE”.
There are also a few secondary characters but they just appear briefly and they’re not analysed in detail. After reading the hypertext a few times, I came to the conclusion that these characters have a symbolic role within the plot. They probably represent, or so it seems to me, different periods in life and the feelings and reactions usually associated to those periods. That’s why, even though at first sight these secondary characters may seem unimportant or superficial, I think their presence within the plot is quite meaningful after all.
As stated above, I assume that our main character is
a woman in her mid-thirties, although this is, of course, just a personal
assumption. As we read the story we get the feeling that she’s old enough
to have gone through a lot of experiences in life, but we also presume that
she’s still quite young, maybe from analogy with the author, Deena Larsen,
although we don’t know whether the hypertext is autobiographical or not.
At the very beginning, in Textblock 1 (Ferris Wheels), the narrator lets us know that she got divorced from her first husband two years ago, and that she met her current boyfriend at Denver’s funfair a year ago. Now they’ve come to the funfair together, which is a yearly ritual for her. When he asks her to marry him, it becomes obvious that she’s terrified of commitment, of anything which involves taking important decisions. She quickly changes the subject and avoids to answer, offering him to ride the Ferris Wheel instead. As they get on the car which will take them up and down in a symbollic ride that represents life itself, her personality will start to unfold before our eyes. We’ll begin to understand that behind her fear of commitment lies a deep insecurity of herself and a tendency to analyse things exhaustively before taking any decisions. In Textblock 11 (Minute Truths), she even considers galaxies and subatomic particles in order to avoid thinking about her decision, to postpone it.
The ride on the ferris wheel, apart from its parallelism with life, also represents for the narrator the period of time she’s given herself to think about the marriage proposal and take a decision. This is clearly reflected in Textblock 3 (Enter), when she asks the ticket lady how many tickets they need, to what she replies:
“I can´t tell you what you need. You have to figure it out for yourselves”,
meaning that they must take their own decisions in life. Further on, we find another relevant example in Textblock 6 (Forever), when they’re talking about some teenage girls:
“maybe they don’t want the ride to end, you tell me.I nod. Hold onto the edge of your denim cut offs, fingering the fraying cotton. Maybe, like me, they want to hold onto this forever.”
She obviously doesn’t want the ride to end, because the end of the ride means that she must take a decision. So as long as they ride on, she feels safe and secure, but deep inside she knows that the ride will come to an end sooner or later and she’ll have to give him an answer, she’ll have to decide about her future. This gives her so much pressure that at a certain point, in Textblock 10 (Black), she even considers suicide as a selfish, easy way to avoid taking a decision. Death symbolises peace, comfort, the end of responsibilities:
“The asphalt below is no longer sticky with people,
but a smooth sheer blackness that invites us and repels us.
I want, suddenly, to undo the safety harness and step out onto the ledge. I want my feet to slip on the metallic shiny sleekness and fall into the never ending black. I do not think about the people who will look in horror after the deed is done. I do not think about you.
I want this ride to end only in the comfort of the nonending black asphalt down there. I want only to end everything in the death finding safety of the whirling black.
I finger the strap. Your hand restrains me.”
Her outlook on life is quite pessimistic at times,
especially when it comes to marriage. This is due to the traumatic experience
of her previous marriage, which ended up in divorce, leaving her with a deep
feeling of failure. She then lost her faith in marriage, and thinks that,
as she couldn’t keep her promise once, she might not be able to keep it next
time. Although she’s deeply in love with her boyfriend, she’s not sure whether
she wants to marry him or not because she’s afraid of failing again, she
feels that marriage and routine could spoil everything once more.
Unlike her boyfriend, who, maybe through lack of experience, is a straight-forward, uncomplicated person, she’s got a complex personality. Things are more complicated for her. For him, love is enough; it’s all that matters to lead a happy marriage, if you love one another you shouldn’t worry about anything else. But her mind doesn’t work like that, for her love is definitely not enough. This is clearly stated in Textblock 8 (Against Tides):
"I love you, you say. Your voice is smiling and I shrug into your arm, now protecting my head from the shiny stickiness of bare plastic.
I look at you. Loving you is something that I no longer question. That isn't why I haven't given you an answer. It's not why I am hesitating, my lips unwilling to form the words, yes. Love is definitely not the issue.
The issue is living with you. Being there again through thick and thin, better or worse, richer or poorer. Which is a promise I have made before. And one I wasn't able to keep then.
What makes me think I can keep it now? Why do I think I can swim against the tides of fate yet once more?"
After her failed first marital experience, she’s come
to think that everything depends on fate, that it doesn’t matter how much
you love someone, if you’re not meant to be together there’s nothing you
can do abouit it, it just won’t work.
Another important feature of her personality is that she comes across as a weak person, who constantly needs someone to look after her and protect her. In her flashbacks to her childhood we realise that her father was very protective with her and tried to teach her to defend herself and confront life. But instead of becoming a strong person, she turns to others for protection, probably looking for her father’s figure in any man she has a relationship with.
As I said before, the character of the boyfriend is not analysed in detail, altough some features of his personality are quite well defined. He represents a counterpoint to the narrator’s character, we could almost say that they have complementary personalities, because he seems to have everything she needs in a man, which is in a way everything she lacks as a person herself. He’s a relaxed, easy-going person who could bring some peace and stability to her chaotic mental universe. Unlike her, he strikes us as a very self-assured person; he knows exactly what he wants and has no doubts about anything. His mind works in a simple, uncomplicated way and he doesn’t think as much as her about things. He’s also very realistic, and whenever her mind starts to wander towards phantasy, he gently brings her back to reality. In the end, she’ll realize that he’s exactly the kind of person she needs to help her put her feet back on the ground. And as they get off the ferris wheel, she finally gives him an answer. Textblock 17 (Reality):
“You climb out first, your long legs holding the
car steady for me
As you offer me your hand, I tell you yes. You lean down to me
What? you ask
Yes, I say. Let's get married. Let's be a part of each other forever
This, I think, is reality.”
And the most important thing about his personality is that, like her father, he’s very protective with her and with other people. We find a good example for this in Textblock 4 (Deny), when he suddenly starts running after a little boy who has run away from his mother and brings him back to her. As he joins the narrator again, she says to him:
“ Thanks, I say.
You would have done the same, you say.
No, I say. I would have been too afraid to care.”
With this she clearly shows how grateful she is to him,
because with this simple act he has shown her once more that he will give
her all the protection she needs, that he’ll be there to look after her just
like her father would do.
In this section I’ll omit some of the secondary
characters, which are of no importance to the plot, and I’ll try to concentrate
on the most relevant ones. These characters, as I mentioned before, have an
important symbolic role and are therefore worth analysing, even if not as
exhaustively as the main ones.
This teenaged couple who appear in
(Reach), as well as other teenagers who appear later on in
(Nothing), symbolise the rebellious, wild character usually associated
to youth with its characteristic explosion of powerful emotions like joy,
This family, who also appears in
(Reach), is dressed alike in white T-shirts and khaki army pants, which
could represent the uniformity and stability of family life.
This lady represents the responsibility of mature age
and acts as the narrator’s voice of conscience when she indirectly tells
her that she has to take her own decisions in life.
The old couple are the most important of the secondary characters in “Ferris Wheels”. They appear for the first time in Textblock 5 (Turn) while they’re waiting in front of the main characters in the ferris wheel’s line. During the whole ride, this old couple will appear repeatedly, symbolising the long years of marriage and living together, stability, joy, happiness as well as the peacefulness of old age. Their role is quite important within the story, because they make the narrator reflect on how beautiful it is to have found someone with whom she could spend the rest of her life, to grow old together with the perfect companion. After observing the old couple and the tenderness and comfort they inspire, she’ll finally decide to marry her boyfriend. Some examples of these reflections can be found in Textblock 15 (Everything) and in Textblock 16 (Friendship):
“We can see the old man's arm, purple veins on
the blue back, holding the woman's thin, graying hair. Running his fingers
through it softly as the car sways back. I imagine that she is smiling up
at him. I imaging that she is thinking only of the sun on her face, the years
of fingers through her hair.I begin to believe that this is all she thought
of when she said yes.” (Everything)
“No one else watches them. They hug slightly,
comfortably. Walk off
We have been friends for a long time now, but nowhere near as long as those two have. This is obvious
Suddenly, I no longer want the asphalt to become a place of black oblivion. I want it to be a long road under us, supporting us.” (Friendship).
This boy also appears several times. He, like the narrator when she was a child, is terrified of heights and he’s really scared of riding in the ferris wheels, he wants off. He symbolises the natural emotion of fear experienced during childhood. In Textblock14 (Nothing), the narrator establishes a parallelism between the little boy being stuck until the ride is over and the risk of being stuck in life after taking a wrong decision:
“An answering cry comes from the little boy who wanted off before, and now realizes that he is stuck until the ride is over.
Once you agree to something, you can do nothing
except see it through. I shiver a bit, as the cold fear pours
through me, too. I tell you this.”
The narrator’s father is the most important influence in her life and she keeps going back in to analyse past events which were of great importance to her. During these flashbacks we come to the conclusion that most of her doubts and fears are rooted in her childhood, and that although her father did his best trying to make her a strong person, he failed to teach her how to confront life’s most ordinary problems, like the one she faces now. The best example for this is in Textblock 14 (Nothing):
“I think about the time my father pretended to put me in the trunk of his car and drive off. What would you do, if someone did this to you? He asked me. Scream, I said. Not good enough, he said. And taught me karate each night for five years until I won a black belt tournament.
I tense into a stance now, and relax. This is not what my father was warning me against, not the terrors he prepared me for.”
Academic year 2001/2002
© a.r.e.a./Dr.Vicente Forés López
© Olga Lledó Oliver
Universitat de València Press