Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

The Cellmate

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“The Cellmate” by Crystal Arbogast “The Cellmate” is a text by Crystal Arbogast, and the story is set in a small town called Whitesburg Kentucky in the USA. The story takes place in the summer of 1925, and includes a protagonist and two important supporting characters. The title obliviously indicates that the story will have something to do with a cellmate; therefore we can say that the title is some sort of foreshadowing. Crystal Arbogast has used the third person limited as point of view, and furthermore her style of writing is quite detailed.

Some of the themes in this short story are prejudice, death penalty or the fact that there has to be a co-existence between the good and the bad in the world. The plot is about Andy, a man who lives in Whitesburg who is known for his homemade liquor. On this exact Indian summer day in 1925 there is only one thing that seems to disturb the inner peace of our protagonist, and that is the fact that a young man called Lloyd is in prison for having killed a woman and for this reason is sentenced to death the following day.

As Lloyd does not fit Andy’s idea of a killer, he continues to wonder whether he really killed this poor woman and if so, perchance someone else had anything to do with the murder. In the story some townspeople ponder that Lloyd’s mother, Annie, was the one who persuaded him to kill that woman. Later in the afternoon Andy is bound to pass the night in the same cell as the killer Lloyd, due to the sheriff’s amusement. In the following morning Lloyd was executed. Later when Andy was released, he decided to take care of Lloyd’s dearest possession; his horse, which was Lloyd’s last wish.

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The story begins with the author describing the beautiful nature and landscape of Whitesburg, which she also describes as “truly God’s country”. Moreover she uses the literary device circular composition, which means that the opening and the finish is somehow linked together; in this story it is the beginning’s sunrise which is joined to the ending’s sunset. The sun can be a symbol of life, and by starting and ending with this powerful symbol, we could interpret that life will go on no matter what. There will always be a day after tomorrow.

Additionally, the opening tells us that Andy sees Whitesburg Kentucky as “truly God’s country”, whereas, the ending shows us humanity at its worst and best. Andy represents the goodwill in humans, and takes on the burden of a young man’s last wish, for no other reason than feeling sorry for Lloyd. However there will always be people like the sheriff and Lloyd’s mother, and these are the people who most likely are unaware to the pleasure of helping others or the touching joy of sunrises and sunsets.

There are three characters that stood out the most, and those are the protagonist Andy Sturgil and the two supporting characters, the Sheriff and Lloyd. Andy Sturgil is an interesting character, because he is dynamic. In the opening we learn that he brews his own liquor, and the fact that the Sheriff is onto him, makes Andy look like a carefree and chancy man. On the other hand, he is the one in the story that shows empathy and compassion towards the “killer” (Lloyd), Andy is truly a goodhearted man. Men do not show emotions, however the story portrayed some quiet feelings.

However, perhaps the most interesting character is Lloyd, caused by his role in this short story. Lloyd gives the impression of having a child mentality and it appears as he is non-violent, and for this reason I find it hard to believe that he could have killed that woman, without someone pulling the strings. And then there is the Sheriff, who is a power-hungry and egocentric man, and the towns bully. Besides it looks as if the Sheriff actually feels threatened by Andy, perhaps because Andy is a cherished man in his town.

The Cellmate essay

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