English 1121- Prof. Scanlan
First Page Draft
Immersion into a New Lifestyle
Many known stories create a picture of perfect ethics. But there are fewer stories that show the real picture, feelings, emotions, fears, etc. Mostly characters may have exaggerated emotions, it is different from short stories that hit home to those who emerged into a new environment and are forced to nothing but assimilate to a new lifestyle. The short story “Assimilation,” by E.L. Doctorow demonstrates the central characters to be Roman and Jelena. Roman is pictured as a stressed of life Hispanic college student, that works at any vacancy to pay off his college bills and for housing. Roman works as a dishwasher at a restaurant later is promoted to a busboy. Happy about his increase to the wage, he gets an offer from his boss Borislav, of three thousand dollars to marry his relative and make her legal in the United States. This is when we meet the next main character Jelena, a young woman that has the main goal of just moving and becoming legal in the United States. The story progresses to the confusion between someone being satisfied but, committing fraud or following the moral type of life. Ethics are the moral presentations of how society should act, fairly to others. Does that mean people will become apathetic to others or the opposite, is there a reason for any person to sacrifice themselves for someone else? The main conflict of this short story occurs between the two different sides, the morality and self-satisfaction, which characters seem to deal with constantly.
In the article by John McGowan “Ways of Worldmaking: Hannah Arendt and E.L. Doctorow” the reader may realize the real circumstances that may occur concerning “desolation”– emptiness, which gives a reader an idea of some type of view such as modernity. My goal for this research is to help readers of Doctorow’s work to recognize the prospection of the author and his point of view by including political ethics in the short stories. The closest relation of ethics for “Assimilation,” and central characters’ actions is Virtue ethics. Roman believes it is not moral to have a marriage without love and for money, this is why he would be cautious about his decisions about taking the offer and marrying Jelena, who does not have the same morals. With the two opposing morals of the short story, I can examine the choices that the character had been coming up with throughout.
E.L Doctorow is known to write short stories that mostly contribute to isolation, immigration, and hard choices, which we accoutered in “Assimilation,” when the characters reach critical point upon choosing what is right for them, follow moral standards or sell yourself. It is important to know the ethics that follow up this short story, it mostly argues upon virtue ethics. An article “ASSIMILATION – E.L. DOCTOROW – MOTIVATION,” by Tim Lepczyk & filed under E. L. Doctorow, Motivation have reviewed the story with;
“It ends with Leon welcoming them in and saying, “Let the war begin.”
For this story to work, the reader has to believe in Ramon. He’s a simple dreamer type figure. Taken with a fancy he jumps into situations. Random interest is his motivation.” This quote is a good example of Ramon being selfless and commits choices from his virtue ethics and beliefs.
“For me, it’s flimsy. I don’t buy it. He’s willing to commit fraud; he’s willing to be bought.” (paragraph 5)
From the beginning, the central character Ramon obviously followed the morality of virtue ethics. As the story progresses further, he convinces Jelena to escape with him to his brother, and they do. Also, Ramon’s brother, Leon, seems to not care about morality and is totally fine with getting money from the Russian family for the arranged marriage, even though he has a criminal record. This type of motivation from Ramon’s surroundings may have been the push factor of agreeing to the offer. This also comes from Ramon being Hispanic immigrant, that works really hard at his job to pay off his and Leon’s bills, he believes that if he chooses to take the money, he will be able to afford everything he owes. As an immigrant, Ramon worked hard to become a citizen and a student. He knows the value of what he has. This type of descriptions of people and their character and moral beliefs seems to be consistent in E.L Doctorow’s stories, especially in the collection of “All the time in the world,” which includes the short story “Assimilation.” A New York Times article by Jess Row “E.L. Doctorow’s stories argues that:
It’s a truism to say that the story as a form is devoted to loneliness and alienation — “people in some sort of contest with the prevailing world,” as Doctorow puts it here — but that may be the best explanation for why these stories so often fail. Doctorow’s novels tend to follow a deductive logic, beginning with the great themes of an era (or simply with a set of historical facts) and then dramatizing them in an interwoven ensemble of characters. Without a substantial dose of irony, short stories don’t work that way; the heavy-handedness of the novelist smashes them flat. As a title, “All the Time in the World” is, in this sense, exactly wrong: these stories never have the breadth and breath — the expansiveness of novelistic time — they need. Which makes this book, as record collectors say, for completists only. (Jess, Paragraph 9)
The assumption of Ramon selling himself to the Russian family seems to be absurd after this statement, because as we can see that when E.L. Doctorow was writing the short stories his goal was to bring the idea of choice that the characters make in a peak of stress. A hypothesis can be made when Ramon chooses to hide away from the moral standards and follow a different path of his life, this is where the title “Assimilation” can be interpreted. The short story is also a very nice comparison to the story of Romeo and Juliet, even the initials are the same. This can be related to the ending of the story when the choices have been made and ended the same way the story of Romeo and Juliet ended.
Motivation is the main push factor of Ramon’s and Jelena’s choices in the story. Ramon was willing to follow the moral standard of life when he was becoming attached to Jelena. While Jelena just portrayed a cold shoulder back to Ramon, somewhat is choosing the feminist ethics and going for her boyfriend who she wants to bring from Russia. Later, Jelena changes her ethics and also follows virtue ethics to relate to her new lover, Ramon. In all, the author had a great impact on handling choices that were made by the characters. E.L. Doctorow created a good piece to explain how a real-life story can be related to fiction romance, including hardships and moral ethics.