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Elizabeth Strout’s “Basket of Trips” demonstrates believability through a couple of different mediums. The first example comes from the end of the story where Olive’s character holds true, despite circumstances that would make a writer want to give their character a little bit of freedom. In class we have already discussed the fact that Olive isn’t likable and I agree. She certainly isn’t somebody who’d I’d want to spend an afternoon with — not ever. Olive shows her crusty exterior after thinking about how “it isn’t right” that Marlene has to suffer through loss. “She would like to rest a hand on Marlene’s head, but this is not the kind of thing Olive is especially able to do.” Instead of following through with these thoughts or thinking about her own struggles, Olive is her cold-hearted and distant self. She shuts out the emotional struggle and instead remembers Eddie Junior skipping stones, and then herself skipping stones, back when she was young enough to do so.

The basket of trips is another point of believability. The details of dreaming for better days, even though the couple knew the days would not get better, is insanely emotional. It’s a bucket list that Ed knew he’d never complete, but it still contained all of what he wanted to do. The deeply sad and terrible reminder of what couldn’t be done is sickeningly beautiful. And real. If I couldn’t afford a trip to the Grand Canyon but had always wanted to go, I’d probably spend my time thinking and planning and dreaming about how the trip would go. A sense of hope and joy comes from that even when neither emotion seems fitting in reality. And when Marlene asks Olive to take them away… bare chest, insert knife.

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