The Hula Girl: Selections from a novella

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Stephen Paul Zwilling (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Jeremy Jones

Abstract: This creative thesis will contain nine opening chapters of a novella titled The Hula Girl. The Hula Girl is a novella that implements cultural study and narrative to address a fundamentally emotional issue: how to reconcile identity within a slight midlife crisis. The Hula Girl expressly focuses on the mindset of an English professor, John Barry. It is a story of identity and personal acceptance, demonstrating the universality of experiences despite the idiosyncrasies of a specific arrangement with his wife. It is a story of identity and personal acceptance coming out of the long tradition of stories about marital problems, pregnancy issues, familial conflict, and the need to find solace in life. It distinguishes itself from this tradition in its negation of a linear narrative. In the novella, John, a midwestern man in his forties lives in Marquette, Michigan, the community where he grew up and now works at the local university. However, when his wife, Clara, mentions a trial separation, John is forced to readdress his identity. Separated from his wife, he fills his otherwise solitary life with couples therapy and attempts to stay sober. With a new promotion at work, he hires, and is instantly smitten, with the new adjunct instructor, the free-spirited Elizabeth Delphine. But the affair into which they casually fall leads to tragedy for their friends and near disaster for them. As the novel progresses, John ambles along, attempting to rediscover his youth by hanging out with his students & peers, drinking, smoking cigarettes, taking impromptu road trips, and listening to collegiate wisdom. He narrates his adventures, such as they are, but remains little more than a hazy collection of half-formed impressions. The Hula Girl is a novella which focuses on the quotidian: the way John comes to terms with himself and his tier of middle-class angst in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The characters are middle-class Americans a little more wised-up than not—cautious, skeptical, private folks who would rather joke about their problems than complain about them. As John tries to understand where he fits in, he realizes that he cannot entirely escape the narratives which he knows, but finds he is bound to them, nonetheless. So, John moves out, leases a small apartment, begins hanging out with his students & peers, and experiences a reenchantment with the world. But when an unforeseen tragedy throws his foibles into high relief, he's confronted with retracking a world gone suddenly haywire.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2022
American Literature, Creative Writing, Fiction Writing, Literary Minimalism, Novella/Novel, Personal Identity
American literature
Creative writing

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