Analysis of Barthelme's The Balloon Essay

676 Words3 Pages
This is a story about how the balloon explores the public's response to it and the relationship with the narrator conscience. The balloon itself is the symbolic representation of the story, so that the reader is forced to confront and respond to the story in the same way that the citizens of New York City must confront and respond to the balloon. The balloon can represent any imaginative origin, as the public demonstrates. The mention of the balloon as having a “deliberate lack of finish” which gave the “surface a rough forgotten quality” reinforced the idea that the balloon is an art object designed to provoke public and private reactions.

An awkward, purposeless balloon that suddenly appears in New York City, which covers almost the
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The balloon's meaning is an alarmingly mysterious. The lack of a fixed reason for the balloon creates a lack of trust, frustration, and hostility for the authorities. Experts conduct secret tests to determine ways of removing or destroying the balloon, but because the narrator has hidden the pumps, there was nothing the authorities could do.

In contrast to the suspicions of the authorities, the public responded was accepting to the balloon. Children enjoyed bouncing on it, and others begin to “locate themselves” in relation to it. Opinions vary, but even people who are unsure towards the balloon experience an “admixture of pleasurable cognition.” The balloon gives the public a unique opportunity for reflection, even though the balloon's meaning can never be known completely. Each person's response to the balloon becomes a reflection of his or her general outlook on life. One man thinks the balloon is inferior to the sky, but the balloon is actually an improvement on January dark, ugly weather. Another person considers the balloon to be an “unanticipated reward”, as if just being in the balloon presence was a gratifying and positive experience. No matter the response, the balloon provides the citizens liberation from their daily lives.

After having reviewed the public and the public officials’ reactions to the balloon, the narrator reveals the reason for the inflated balloon. The narrator has been romantically involved with a person who went to

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