Is the Balloon a Balloon?
Donald Barthelme's short story The Balloon was written in 1981, and published in his book Sixty Stories. Told from the first person perspective, it narrates the uncertain, impetuous appearance of a strange balloon that hovers over New York City. What does the balloon represent? How could such an insignificant, detached object help you cope with uneasiness and sexual deprivation? It couldn't. Therefore, the balloon must be a symbol for something greater. In Barthelme's short story, members of the community have different reactions to the balloon, which poses the many different viewpoints society has on literature.
Early on in the first paragraph, we infer the owner and creator of this new irregularly shaped structure to be the narrator. He begins by describing the balloon to be "forty-five blocks north-south and an irregular area east-west."(53)
The immensity symbolizes the extensiveness of literature. There are so many genres, with so many authors, and a multitude of styles. The irregularity, however, represents the inconsistency in his life in regards to his relationship. It was painted "muted heavy grays and browns for the most part, contrasting with walnut and soft yellows."(53) The 'muted heavy grays and browns' represent the darkness he is going through in life, and particularly in his relationship. The 'walnut and soft yellows' stand for the beauty in life, and the beauty in his relationship upon her return.
While people were baffled by the balloon, they each reacted to it. "Some people found the balloon 'interesting.'"(54) 'Interesting' in this context functions as a word of disinterest, representing people who find no interest in literature. Children found the "up" side of the balloon to be "extremely exciting."(54) The excitement here corresponds with the excitement a...