Volar Essays

Discussion of the Characters in David Foster Wallace’s “Good People”

  • Synopsis
    • David Foster Wallace’s “Good People” describes the predicament of a dating Christian couple that engages in premarital sex and the lady becomes pregnant. They are torn between having an abortion and keeping the baby (Mays 149-155 ).
  • Characters
    • The author examines the abortion issue using an interesting choice of characters. Lane A. Dean, Jr. and Shari are two young Christian friends, who have dated for a while. They are staunch Christians but still end up engaging in premarital sexual relations.
    • The main characters in the story are the stereotypic opponents of abortion being staunch Christians and also educated to the college level. The complexity of the issue of abortion is depicted in the mental conflict experienced by the characters.   
    • Lane is the main character. He and his girlfriend Shari pray together over the phone when they are physically apart although they pray in coded language indicating that they are uncomfortable with their religious inclinations. All the events are described in Lane’s perspective, including the last part where he imagines what Shari would have to say about the impending appointment for abortion.
    • Pastor Steve and the church members (152) are passively used to portray an intolerance of sexuality and the rigidness of rules in the church community.

Significance of Setting in Literature

  • The time and place where the events in a story take place (157).
  • Types of Settings
    • The time setting of a story can be during the author’s lifetime, in the past or even the future. The story can also take place across many time periods, whereby it can be categorized into general and particular periods. A general time setting refers to the scope of the story while a particular time setting specifies the timeline when a specific event, featured in a story took place.
  • A story can also be set in a single or in multiple locations. Physical settings can be real places or fictional based on what effect the author intends the story to have. Some stories can also be based on locations that cannot practically exist in the present or foreseeable future.
    • Similarly a setting can be described vaguely or vividly depending on the effect that the author wants the story to have on the audience. Folk tales are set in vague places and timelines where the author can state “once upon a time”, or “in a deserted village”. In such stories the setting is unimportant thus the author intends the audience to feature on the other aspects of the story and the theme.
    • The vivid description of the setting in a fictional work is crucial for character development and setting of the theme. The author gives the example of Gone with the wind as one of the novels that would lose thematic clarity without a detailed description of the setting (159).
  • The Importance of Setting in Fictional Stories
    • The setting is as an important aspect of the story as characters and plot. The author uses the setting to mold the readers’ mood and help them to understand the story in the intended context.
    • The author also uses the setting to develop the characters and to modify their behavior.
  • Authors also use the setting to develop various themes in their work of fiction. 
  • The setting can also be used to challenge the prior perceptions of a reader when an author deviates from the traditional knowledge and the known history.    

Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog”

  • Setting
    • The novel is set in two locations. The author uses the setting as an imagery to show the emotional experiences of the characters. The first setting is in Yalta, a holiday town located in Southern Ukraine. Gurov, the main character, meets Anna in Yalta and falls in love with her. The time is described as the onset of the spring season, the weather warm, and the flowers are blooming, perhaps to symbolize the inception of new relationships. Gurov is described as a relaxed place where "one did not know what to do with oneself"(165).
    • The relaxed, carefree, holiday mood depicted in the setting allows for Gurov and Anna to engage in an extramarital affair. The two of them meet at the beach which is well described through sounds and smells. The two characters are key to the sights and smells; since they hear "the chirrup of the grasshoppers" and Gurov “smelled the moisture and the fragrance of the flowers" (168) when he kissed Anna.  The place loses its appeal when Anna leaves and Gurov experiences “a cold evening" and decides to leave for Moscow.
    • Setting is used to portray the mood back at Gurov’s home in Moscow when the author states that it was “in its winter routine” (171). Unlike the warm weather, outdoor activities, light, and fun in Yalta, Moscow is cold, and most activities are carried out indoors. Gurov is bored with the routine and misses the spontaneity of Yalta. Gurov is also lonely and thus misses the love and companionship of “the lady with the dog”.

Summary of the Use of Setting in Judith Ortiz Cofer’s “Volar”

  • The story is about a young girl whose family migrates to America. The young girl and her mother share similar dreams which the author symbolizes as “valor”, a Spanish word that means “to fly”. The author uses the story to describe many immigrant’s dreams to make it in America and the elusiveness of their dreams. The general setting of the whole story is vague. The readers only know that the events take place in America during the great migration period.  Perhaps, the author chose to leave the setting vague to emphasize the human emotions in the story and to give a general overview of the society.  The particular settings in the story are described vividly e.g. the flight from the roof top (197).

Critique of the “Sample Writing: Essay”

  • The essay describes the use of setting in Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog”. The author describes the time settings in detail citing numerous parts of the story to support his points.
  • The author, however, does not discuss the spatial setting in detail.
  • In essence the author fails to identify the important role that both the space and time setting play in bringing out the story’s main theme.

Discussion Questions

Did the physical attraction or religious inclinations prevailed for both heroes? Discussion of the Characters in David Foster Wallace’s “Good People”

How the setting of the meeting place influenced feelings between Anna and Gurov? Were their feelings strong enough to break up with their relatives? Anton Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog”

Does the author compare being truly free to human inability to fly and highlights the elusiveness of the dreams when the desired goal is reached? Summary of the Use of Setting in Judith Ortiz Cofer’s “Volar”

Works Cited

Mays , Kelly J. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Eleventh. W. W. Norton & Company, 2013. Print.

Judith Ortiz Cofer

Judith Ortiz Cofer

BornJudith Ortiz
(1952-02-24)February 24, 1952
Hormigueros, Puerto Rico
DiedDecember 29, 2016(2016-12-29) (aged 64)
Louisville, Georgia[1]
NationalityPuerto Rican
GenrePoetry, short stories, autobiography, essays, young adult novels
Notable worksA Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood

Judith Ortiz Cofer (February 24, 1952 – December 30, 2016[2]) was a Puerto Rican American author. Her critically acclaimed and award-winning work spans a range of literary genres including poetry, short stories, autobiography, essays, and young-adult fiction. Ortiz Cofer was the Emeritus Regents' and Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia, where she taught undergraduate and graduate creative writing workshops for 26 years. In 2010, Ortiz Cofer was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, and in 2013, she won the University's 2014 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award.[3]

Ortiz Cofer hailed from a family of story tellers and drew heavily from her personal experiences as a Puerto Rican American woman.[4] In her work, Ortiz Cofer brings a poetic perspective to the intersection of memory and imagination. Writing in diverse genres, she investigated women issues, Latino culture, and the American South. Ortiz Cofer's work weaves together private life and public space through intimate portrayals of family relationships and rich descriptions of place. Her manuscripts and papers are currently housed at the University of Georgia's Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library.[3]

Early years[edit]

Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, on February 24, 1952.[5] She moved to Paterson, New Jersey with her family in 1956. They often made back-and-forth trips between Paterson and Hormigueros. In 1967, her family moved to Augusta, Georgia, where she attended Butler High School. Judith and her brother initially resisted the family's move South. Upon arriving in Georgia, however, Ortiz Cofer was struck by Augusta's vibrant colors and vegetation compared with the gray concrete and skies of city-life in Paterson.[6]

Academic and literary career[edit]

Ortiz Cofer received a B.A. in English from Augusta College, and later an M.A. in English literature from Florida Atlantic University.[5] Early in her writing career, Ortiz Cofer won fellowships from Oxford University and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, which enabled her to begin developing her multi-genre body of work.[5] In 1984, Ortiz Cofer joined the faculty of the University of Georgia as the Franklin Professor of English and Creative Writing. After 26 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate students, Ortiz Cofer retired from the University of Georgia in December 2013.[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 1986, Riverstone International Chapbook Competition for her first collection of poems, Peregrina[3]
  • 1989, The Line of the Sun was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize [3]
  • 1990, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood received the PEN/Martha Albrand Special Citation in Nonfiction [3]
  • 1990, the essay "More Room" was awarded the Pushcart Prize, which celebrates work published by small presses.[3]
  • 1991, the essay "Silent Dancing" was selected for The Best American Essays 1991[3]
  • 1993, The Latin Deli was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize [3]
  • 1994, first Hispanic to win the O. Henry Prize for the story “The Latin Deli” [3]
  • 1995, An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio was named one of the best books of the year for young adults by the American Library Association [3]
  • 1995, University of Georgia's J. Hatten Howard III award, which recognizes faculty members who demonstrate notable potential in teaching Honors courses early in their teaching careers.[3]
  • 1996, Ortiz Cofer and illustrator Susan Guevara became the first recipients of the Pura Belpre Award for Hispanic children’s literature.[8]
  • 1998, University of Georgia's Albert Christ-Janer Award [3]
  • 1999, Franklin Professorship [3]
  • 2006, Regents Professor Recognition [3]
  • 2007, Mentor Achievement Award, from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs [3]
  • 2010, Georgia Writers Hall of Fame induction[9]
  • 2011, Georgia Governor's Award in the Humanities
  • 2013, University of Georgia's 2013 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award. This honor celebrates one faculty member from each SEC school and carries a $5,000 prize.[3]

Literary work[edit]

Ortiz Cofer's work can largely be classified as creative nonfiction. Her narrative self is strongly influenced by oral storytelling, which was inspired by her grandmother, an able storyteller in the tradition of teaching through storytelling among Puerto Rican women. Ortiz Cofer's autobiographical work often focuses on her attempts at negotiating her life between two cultures, American and Puerto Rican, and how this process informs her sensibilities as a writer. Her work also explores such subjects as racism and sexism in American culture, machismo and female empowerment in Puerto Rican culture, and the challenges diasporic immigrants face in a new culture. Among Ortiz Cofer's more well known essays are "The Story of My Body" and "The Myth of the Latin Woman," both reprinted in The Latin Deli.

A central theme Ortiz Cofer returns to again and again in her writing is language and the power of words to create and shape identities and worlds. Growing up, Ortiz Cofer's home language was Spanish. In school, she encountered English, which became her functional language and the language she wrote in. Early in her life, Ortiz Cofer realized her "main weapon in life was communication," and to survive, she would have to become fluent in the language spoken where she lived.[10]

List of works[edit]

Multi-genre works[edit]

  • The Latin Deli: Prose and Poetry (1993), U of Georgia Press, ISBN 978-0820315560.[11] Second edition: (2010), University of Georgia Press, ISBN 9780820336213
  • The Year of Our Revolution: New and Selected Stories and Poems (1998), Arte Publico Press, ISBN 1558852247
  • Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood (1990)
  • American History (1993)


  • A Love Story Beginning in Spanish (2005), University of Georgia Press, ISBN 0820327425
  • Reaching for the Mainland and Selected New Poems (1995), Bilingual Press, ISBN 092753455X
  • Terms of Survival (1987), Arte Publico Press, ISBN 1558850791


  • The Line of the Sun (1989), University of Georgia Press, ISBN 0820313351

Works on writing[edit]

  • Lessons from a Writer’s Life: Readings and Resources for Teachers and Students (2011), co-authored by Harvey Daniels, Penny Kittle, Carol Jago, and Judith Ortiz Cofer, Heinemann, ISBN 0325031460
  • Woman in Front of the Sun: On Becoming A Writer (2000), University of Georgia Press, ISBN 0820322423
  • Sleeping with One Eye Open: Women Writers and the Art of Survival (1999), editor Marilyn Kallet, University of Georgia Press, ISBN 0820321532
  • Conversations with the World: American Women Poets and Their Work (1998), contributor Toi Derricotte, Trilogy Books, ISBN 0962387991

Young adult literature[edit]

  • If I Could Fly (2011), Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 0374335176
  • Call Me Maria (2004), Scholastic, ISBN 0439385784
  • The Meaning of Consuelo (2003), Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN B008AFRU8W
  • Riding Low on the Streets of Gold; Latino Literature for Young Adults (2003), Arte Publico Press, ISBN 1558853804
  • An Island Like You: Stories of the Barrio (1995), Scholastic, ISBN 0531068978

Children's books[edit]

  • The Poet Upstairs (2012), illustrated by Oscar Ortiz, Piñata Books, ISBN 1558857044
  • Animal Jamboree/La Fiesta De Los Animales: Latino Folktales / Leyendas (2012), Piñata Books, ISBN 1558857435
  • A Bailar!/Let’s Dance (2011), illustrated by Christina Ann Rodriguez, Piñata Books, ISBN 1558856986


  • The Native Dancer (1995), ASIN: B00I6G9STO
  • Peregrina (1986), Poets of the Foothills Art Center, Riverstone Press, ISBN 0936600063
  • Latin Women Pray (1980), The Florida Arts Gazette Press, ASIN: B008A2A5GY


  • Triple Crown: Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Cuban-American Poetry (1997), Bilingual Press, ISBN 0916950719
  • The Mercury Reader, A Custom Publication (2005), Pearson Custom Publishing, ISBN 053699840X
  • Quixote Quarterly, Summer 1994 (Vol. 1, No. 1), Chuck Eisman, ISBN 0964219808
  • The Kenyon Review, Summer / Fall 1998 (Vol. 20, No. 3/4). Kenyon College, ASIN: B001NODMH0


See also[edit]


External links[edit]

  1. ^"Judith Ortiz Cofer". poetryfoundation.org. Retrieved 2016-01-04. 
  2. ^Taylor Funeral Homes; Louisville, Georgia (no date). "Memorial Page for Judith Cofer (Ortiz)". "Mrs. Judith Ortiz Cofer, age 64 … died Friday morning, December 30, 2016 at her residence… Judith was a prolific literary writer in multiple genres, and received many awards for her writing and teaching." Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  3. ^ abcdefghijklmnopFahmy, Sam. "Noted author Judith Ortiz Cofer receives SEC Faculty Achievement Award". UGA Today. University of Georgia. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  4. ^Gordon, Stephanie (October–November 1997). "An Interview with Judith Ortiz Cofer"(PDF). AWP Chronicle. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  5. ^ abcHonoree - Georgia Writers Hall of Fame
  6. ^Cofer, Judith (June 2014). "Reading". 
  7. ^"A Poet's Past". Online Athens. The Red and Black. January 13, 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  8. ^"Hispanic Firsts", By; Nicolas Kanellos, publisher Visible Ink Press; ISBN 0-7876-0519-0; p.40
  9. ^"Writers hall picks four inductees". Online Athens. Athens Banner Herald. September 19, 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2009. 
  10. ^Ocasio, Rafael (1992). "Puerto Rican Literature in Georgia? An Interview with Judith Ortiz Cofer"(PDF). Kenyon Review. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  11. ^"The Latin Deli: Prose and Poetry". WorldCat.org. Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  12. ^Amazon.com

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