Fragmentation in The Shore Girl, Swimmers and Boyhood

I have come to notice a similarity between several of the works that we have covered in class and have yet to cover; that similarity is fragmentation. As I read The Shore Girl, I thought the narrative technique was interesting because it was a collection of perspectives of unconnected people, with only one person in common: Rebee. Each person always begins the chapter by discussing their past, of them searching for something, running from something, but all in all, searching for identity, which is a main theme in this novel. However, although the chapter starts with their own problems, they all turn to focus on Rebee (and the Rebee­Harmony relationship). They all have questions about their lives, but their focus shifts from themselves and their own issues to what Rebee is going through, and something interesting about that is how they all try in their own ways to help Rebee. The fragmentation of the chapters reflects the fragmentation of each characters’ lives and this fragmentation draws the characters together.
Similarly, Swimmers is also written in a fragmented form that is less distinguished by characters than by time in months. The novel is from Hunter’s point of view throughout, which I find easier to follow along with the plot and fills in the gaps of the fragmentation more smoothly. The fragmentation in this novel allows the audience to be captivated because they
want to know what happened in the past that caused Hunter to move to Lethbridge, and what he is going back for that concerns Niall. Although lots of it was predictable, the fragmentation still provided a variance and shift of tone, and it seemed more personal towards Hunter because he was telling his story the way he wanted to (as fictional narrators do). The fragmentation was well chosen for this novel and enhanced its plot and character development.
Lastly, the movie Boyhood likewise uses fragmentation to develop plot and characters and demonstrates the fragmentation in the characters lives, and as you can see, it combines the criteria I have of fragmentation set­up from the two novels. At first, the constant switching from different points in Mason’s life bothered me because just as I was getting into one scene, he grew up a couple years and was being challenged by a different learning curve; the adjustment for me was aggravating because it wasn’t fitting normal movie styles that I’m used to. For all that the director wanted to fit in the movie, it’s fair that this was a necessary technique, but it also adds to the plot. The constant changes in the movie reflect the changes and problems Mason must handle and learn to cope with. Life is fragmentation. Learning through experience is fragmented. Things take time to develop. Changes take time getting used to. There is always something that causes life to be fragmented into sections: school, marriage, births, death. We can try and place ourselves into these categories (and these are just general ones in everyones lives), and this is likely the simplest way, but we can’t assume there will never be change and fragmentation, even in those categories.
In David Marchese’s article, “Richard Linklater’s Leading Boy,” time is, of course, a major topic discussed, and Marchese talks about the commitment from the actors to return every year and it’s interesting that the way Mason grows up in the movie reflects the life Ellar Coltrane (Mason) had in real life. The movie’s fragmentation is very intentional to demonstrate
and capture the “journey from boyhood to adolescence,” which shows how Mason “blossomson screen before our eyes from a pensive, tentative 6­year­old to a sensitive, freethinking young man of 18.” So of course we notice the abrupt changes between scenes, but we also recognize Mason changing and beginning to form his identity, just as Rebee and Hunter have
to do, although in different ways. The movie, I think, is trying to portray the version of childhood that is honest because it shows family difficulties, a boy searching for meaning in things, and basic things that could happen to any child, which makes it a realistic film. Linklater says, “Time is actually the lead character in the film,” which is an obvious truth but a
necessary part to seriously consider because it shows Mason’s growth as he questions life and “becomes a unique individual.”
Fragmentation is very integral in these three mediums because of what it represents to the texts and film. Although fragmentation means a little something different and is applied differently in each of these works, it enhances the plots and creates more meaning than I think there would be otherwise.

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4 thoughts on “Fragmentation in The Shore Girl, Swimmers and Boyhood

  1. Constance says:

    I totally agree with this! I also found the fragmentation a little frustrating at first, but I think it was a really useful device in both of the texts as well as the film. It’s almost like you’re catching up with an old friend while reading one snip of the text and then when it jumps it’s like being away from them and having to catch up on all you’ve missed since you last saw them. This fragmentation is not necessarily a bad thing; in fact I found it does keep you engaged. I was becoming more interested in what I was reading because I was desperate to find out what happened during the time I was “away” from the character (if that makes sense). Anyways, great connection between the three pieces we’ve studied so far!

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  2. In Shore Girl in particular I think the fragmentation and the use of the variety of authors was genius on the authors part because it revealed to the author information otherwise untold. Each narrator revealed different characteristics about Rebee or other characters. The each played a role in Rebee’s life and therefore helped shape who she grew up to be.
    Megan Peters

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  3. Taryn says:

    I love that you brought up the idea of fragmentation, because I think that this is something that we see in nearly every YA text. At the start of the term, we talked about how it is not easy to define YA text in concrete terms, but to think of YA literature as a family, with some commonalities, some differences, that aren’t necessarily present in all literature, but thus far, the texts we have studied, absolutely are fragmented, and I love that. I love the multiple perspectives, I love how they all interlock and build on one another to create the narrative. It is this fragmentation, if anything, that has the potential to make these novels relatable to an individual, because it mirrors, just as you said, reality. Our lives are fragmented. The reading of a novel is often fragmented. We read a chapter, reflect on what we’ve read, and continue. Our thoughts are fragmented, and out of this fragmentation comes a whole, which, as you stated, does have more meaning that the parts. This was such a fantastic point for you to bring up, and definitely made me think that these texts could be relatable, just, perhaps more so in the way they’re written, than in the content.

    Taryn

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  4. I totally agree! I wrote about the lack of Rebee’s perspective in my first seminar question because it really alienates the reader from the protagonist and instead throws in your face a bunch of other character’s telling Rebee’s story from their own point of view which is shaped by their own problems, and is therefore biased, lacking, and therefore fragmented. Before I had a chance to start reading “Swimmers” I heard a lot of people discussing the difficulty in following the novel due to the fragmentation in time because it was hard to distinguish where they were in the chapter (and now having read most of it, he even goes back in time when we are already back in time, which can be jarring). The main difference between the two novels appears to be that Hunter gets to really tell his story (like you said), whereas Rebee doesn’t really get to chance to tell her story, because she spends the first chapter of her life living her mother’s story and having other’s tell it for her. This post was really thought provoking for me, especially in terms of Boyhood, because I didn’t see ALL of the connections between the two novels and the film until you pointed them out and brought in articles to support your argument!

    Brianne Graham

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