Caleb Hoagland’s “A Relationship in Three Acts” is a short story, which tells about the relationship between two young people in only one page and a half. Suggesting his love story in three acts, Hoagland’s purpose is to push people to realize how important love is, to reflect and analyze the mistakes, which can destroy the relations. The writer shows that time often happens to be destructive for love relations. The loss of trust, of mutual understanding makes the relationship doomed. The diction and language of the protagonist, the contrast in the tone of the paragraphs the three-act structure of the story can be defined as the strategies, which Hoagland has used to bring the readers to reflections about how to keep the sparkle of love and not let the pills or other exterior factors make it extinguish.
From the very first look, the story reminds a personal letter of a man to his beloved woman or a page from the personal diary as it reveals the intimate thoughts, experience and reminiscences of the main hero. The protagonist does not simply tell a story to the reader, but addresses to his beloved using the pronoun “you”, which makes the reader feel some closeness to the author as if he is involved in the events. The author does not generalize the whole story, but he is precise about the details. He tells how their first “connection” has happened, how one spring day her “bike threw its chain” near his house, and he helped her, how they exchanged their numbers, and specifies that a “David Foster Wallace book” was a motive to do it. The story is filled with details describing the time they spent together – they had French toasts for breakfast, the van, which they rear-ended, was filled with mentally ill people (Hoagland). All these details create strong imagery of the story and make the reader feel as if he can see everything that is described. Among all the notions, the writer uses the widely-known names of dishes, of drugs to make it easier for the reader to comprehend the story. The diction adopted by Hoagland is informal and sometimes even colloquial as he uses such expressions as “quack doctor”, “fucking pill heads” (Hoagland).
The difference in the tone of the paragraphs is also important when proving how the changes in the relationship with a beloved have influenced the mood and the thoughts of the protagonist. The tone of the first paragraph is filled with hope. Even the fact that all the story has begun in spring symbolizes that the soul of a person, who is falling in love, is filled with hope and dreams. The writer adopts the romantic tone by describing how she “ran fingers through his hair”, “played with the lobe of his ear”, smoothly and slowly “traced his tattoos with her fingers” (Hoagland). The tone of the last paragraph is subdued, and he states that their relationship is doomed, no word, be it true or lies, matter anymore (Hoagland). Such statements create a pessimistic and nostalgic atmosphere as two people have lost the romantic and loving relations, which they had before. Therefore, the tone emphasizes the importance of love in human’s life.
Interestingly, the structure of the story consists of three parts, or as it was mentioned in its title of “three acts”. The writer has separated each of them from another with the help of three asterisks after the paragraph. Such structure is common in writing and the parts can be regarded as the introduction, the rising action and the resolution. In the first two paragraphs, the main hero emphasizes the nostalgia about the lost feelings. The way he remembers the details of the first meeting, of the time they spent together emphasizes how important the feelings were for him, and how happy the couple was in the beginning. However, in the last paragraph, the protagonist’s feelings were “anger and disappointment”, and he did not know “who to direct it towards” (Hoagland). After all, the moment, when the feelings are gone, and nothing matters anymore, symbolizes the loss of hope, of the inner harmony.
Hoagland has managed to make the readers get a feel for of how upset the hero was to lose the loving relationship he had. He has brought his idea of love importance with the help of the diction, the tone and the structure of this short story. The way the writer described all the details and events in the first two paragraphs sounds euphonious, harmoniously. As a result, those, who are in love, should find ways to keep the feelings they have and not let their love story be doomed.