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Flight to Pittsburgh

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Flight to Pittsburgh
In our society we have a lot of ideals of how you must be, how you should act and how you should look. These ideals often represent how we think a perfect man or perfect woman is. And it is difficult to live up to these ideals, often it is impossible but we are trying really hard anyway. In this story we see how it is to pursue such an ideal from a man, Hank’s point of view. We also see how destroying it can be when a person thinks the ideal is a reality and possible.

Hank is a middle aged man, 52 years old, and married to Faye. He has a daughter, Julie with Faye. Julie is married with Russell, but she has just called and said that he has hit her. She specifically asks to see her father. This implies that Julie sees her father as the “Superman,” who will come and save her whenever she is in trouble. We also know that Julie and Russell lives in a house, there is a “replica of his own,” Hanks house. The fact that she is living in a house, which is an exact copy of her father’s supports this. Who builds a house there is an exact copy of one’s parents’? Most daughters and sons would build their own after what they find them most suitable. But she builds a house exactly like her father’s because she still looks up to him like a little girl would look up to her father. The house could also be a symbol of the father, in the way it surrounds her, like a hug, the comforting hug from a father you know always will be there for you. Another thing that supports this is that she did not visit her father at the hospital after his operation. “It was the nature of my operation.” Julie does not see her father like a man, but like a father, little girls do not think of their fathers that way. Even though she is a grown up, she is still “daddy’s little girl” and he is her father, she is actually quite childish. In her eyes he cannot do anything wrong, everything he does is right and he knows what is best. That gives her a problem towards other men, because she has this unreal image of a man, no other man will ever be able to live up to her father in her eyes. Russell does not stand a chance. In fact Russell has identified with this image Julie has of a man and come to the conclusion that he cannot fulfil it:”I don’t mind saying it’s been a bitch competing with you.” Russell has accepted that he cannot make Julie happy, or live up to the image she has of a man. The reason why he got mad and hit her was a reaction in a feeling of powerlessness:”It pissed me of, because I always thought that was something I could do.” It seems like such an easy thing to make someone happy, when you love them, but it is not, when that person has an unreal image of what you are capable of.

Hank is aware of that Julie has this unreal image of a man and that she sees him as the “perfect” man. That is why he does not blame Russell but himself. That he is feeling guilty is shown when he says: “More than anything, I’m afraid he’ll tell me what’s wrong with my daughter, and why their lives together went wrong.” Hank feels that it is his fault that it did not work out between Julie and Russell, because he knows Julie sees him , or his role as a father, like the “perfect man.” At the same time he does not want to be confronted with it, which is why he does not want Russell to tell him what went wrong between him and Julie. Another reason could be that generally parents do not want to see what there is wrong with their children; according to parents their children are perfect. But Hanks guilt does that he cannot put Russell on the airplane to Pittsburgh, because when Hank is feeling guilty he does not have a reason for it, because according to him it was not Russell’s fault: “And now that he’s brought the unfairness of it to my attention, I know I can’t put him on that plane.” Hank can see it is unfair to punish someone if it is not their fault. Hank also says:”...that I consider it prophetic, a sign that some terrible malignancy remains.” He considers the cancer and the nausea as his punishment, and for a piece of evidence that there is justice after all. And why would he consider it as a punishment, if he was not feeling guilty?
Even though he feels guilty about his daughter having this unreal image of a man, he also wants to have an image as a “perfect man.” That is why he chooses the easy way out of the problems Julie and Russell are having, he chooses to put Russell on a plane and with him the evidence of Julie’s unreal image of a man, is out of the world. This way he will not be confronted with it and he can keep on pretending he is perfect and Julie will think so too. Hanks is also saying:”...who I want to tell things I can’t tell my wife.” He rather wants to tell a person he actually does not know about his problems, than talking to his wife, who he has been with for thirty years. This tells us that he also wants to keep this image as a “perfect man” towards his wife.
When his wife says:”You think I don’t know you after thirty years?” Hank sees that he does not have anything to hide, because his wife already knows him quite well, better than he expected. And to see that she is okay with him being as he is, makes him feel safe:”...but the car is warm and there will be no harm if I fall asleep. Faye knows how to get us home.” Hank does not have to pretend to be this “perfect man” anymore, he can be who is and his wife still loves him.

The writer shows us the story from Hanks point of view and that makes us more understanding towards Hank. Because when we get to know his feelings and his thoughts, we can follow him and in some way agree with what he chose to do. If we had not seen it from his point of view, we would have been more likely to disagree with what he did, because what kind of a father would let a son-in-law that easy of, when he has hit your daughter?
The use of direct speech catches the reader and makes it more exciting because it gives an impression of that it is happening right now. When we can see what they actually are talking about, especially what Hank is saying, how he is responding and what the others are saying to him. We come to like him and think; he is not that bad a guy e.g. when Russell takes back that he said Hank was a cold son of a bitch and when Faye sort of forgive Hank in the end. It makes us think that it is not only going on in Hanks head when the other persons seem to agree with him.

Hank has accepted that he is good enough as he is, he does not have to pursue being a “perfect man,” because his wife loves him anyway. And when she can live with how he is, he probably can too. According to Julie, we do not know what happens with her and if she learns something. But one could assume that when her father has stopped pretending to be a “perfect man,” she will stop thinking it too and see that he is a man, an ordinary man with all that comes to it, and at last get a “normal” image of a man.…...

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