Some High-Abstraction Binaries from “A Very Short Story”


                        Privileged                                                        Vulnerable


                        Peace                                                             War


                        Female                                                           Male


                        Healthy                                                           Injured/Diseased


                        “real love”                                                       “boy-girl love”


                        Employed                                                       Unemployed


Note that this list does not exhaust the possibilities, and your paper may well depend on a binary opposition not in this list.  It is intended to guide your formulation of binaries at an appropriate level of abstraction so that their full functional range of association can connect them to a healthy amount of evidence in the text in which they operate.  For instance, the binary term "War" can be seen in numerous denotative and connotative meanings of the story, and it even might be said to invade or share control of some elements of "Injured/Diseased."

The binary stack above is the first, data-gathering stage of a Structuralist analysis.  The second stage looks for rules that appear to guide the vertical association of apparently unconnected terms--their connection lies hidden in the "deep structure" of the story.  Cultural associations between "Peace" and "Female" on the one hand, and between "War" and "Male" on the other, are so commonplace that we can see allegorical statues depicting "Peace" as a female deity, and Mars and Ares come ready-packaged to us from Roman and Greek cultural structures we have inherited without thinking too much about their "naturalness."  But look further down--how does "Male" come to be associated with "Injured/Diseased" and with "Unemployed" (also consider synonyms like "Idle" or "Static" vs. the female "Active" or "Dynamic").  Could Hemingway be asserting something about War's effect upon Masculinity?  Could it have a counter-rule in associating Peace with Femaleness and Employment?  One quick glance at "Soldiers Home" or "Cat in the Rain" might confirm that there is some principle connecting these elemental concepts stirring deep beneath the surface of all these tales.  The thesis of Part Two would have to say no more than what some principle might be for "A Very Short Story," but an article or paper using Structuralism to power its thesis would have time to consider more evidence and to build a stronger case.