What I'm saying is, don't delude yourself that the powerful cultural values that wrecked the lives of so many of my classmates have vanished from the earth.
To Understand Much Ado About Nothing, Watch When Harry Met Sally | The SparkNotes Blog
One of the things people always say to you if you get upset is, don't take it personally, but listen hard to what's going on and, please, I beg you, take it personally. Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim. It was about family and politics, food and parenting, and yes, a look at those little embarrassing moments that come with time and all the little injustices your body inflicts without your consent. Thanks, Nora, from all of us. Alex Leo is the director of web product for Thomson Reuters Digital. This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters theatlantic. After some warm-up jokes about dated hairstyles and tuition prices, Ephron, in no uncertain terms, challenged the graduating class to bring it or go home: What I'm saying is, don't delude yourself that the powerful cultural values that wrecked the lives of so many of my classmates have vanished from the earth.
All the while, Harry plunges into despair.
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This is all presented and shown economically via a montage, propelling some necessary exposition to get us to the next plot point. They watch the closing sequence of Casablanca from their singleton beds.
Sally claims that she would have stayed with Bogart - in contrast to the diner conversation earlier - demonstrating the development of her character. We next see them at the museum. All is going well - their friendship is solidified - but the problem is that they, to the outside world, look like lovers on a day out. This is a real turning point in the story, challenging the idea that they might be becoming more than just friends.
But this time, he and Sally are rolling out a carpet - metaphorically redressing his life. Sally summises that this is going to take longer than they thought. But Harry had sex with his date. This highlights the differences in Harry and Sally - provoding a little comedic nod to what destroys their friendship later on.
Harry divulges to Sally that, after sex, he invents an excuse and makes a swifty exit - reinforcing what he said earlier during the scene on the airplane which disgusted her then, and disgusts her now. The POTW persists. Harry counters that the women he sleeps with have a bloody good time. She loudly and outrageously fakes an orgasm in the middle of the crowded diner a piece of movie magic , to demonstrate that all women have faked it at some stage.
'When Harry Met Sally': For some, it's become a film icon
At midnight they exchange an awkward kiss. But is this kiss truly platonic? But the comfort is immediately jeopardised. For more information about WFTS, go to writeforthestage. Like with our unusually long Act 1, structural norms are tested here, because, conventionally, the rising action is usually the meatiest part of a story - fraught with conflict, complication and antagonism as the protagonist pursues the objective crystallised through the inciting incident of Act 1.
And this was an essential action to test the theme. The rising action in WHMS is just a function of the story and Harry meets his objective as quickly as possible without being dismissive. So, Harry, having achieved his objective, finds himself in emotional need territory. The falling action traditionally challenges the protagonist in a much deeper way than throughout the rising action.
The rising action is a time of hope and determination, whereas the falling action is often a more trepidatious route.
This is perhaps the reason why the rising action of this movie was just a passing function - because Harry and Sally becoming friends was a plot point - and the real challenge comes here. We open into the Falling Action with the paying off of the subplot - Jess and Marie get together. The intention is for Harry to hit it off with Marie and for Sally to get together with Jess.
But, of course, they discover that they have nothing in common and a particularly awkward dinner ensues, until Marie quotes from a magazine article she once read. She finds herself, inadvertently, quoting Jess. And the future is cemented. Things start to move quick and we find Harry and Sally out shopping - choosing a moving-in gift for Jess and Marie - the subplot emerging from the background and into the fore.
He needs to let go of the pessimism that has been his downfall so far. And this is where Helen finally appears in the story.
Harry and Sally are shopping and having a lovely time, singing along to Surrey With A Fringe On Top - again, another classic movie moment. This is a clever way of forcing the problem of the world to emerge - but - as life is - our demons arrive when we least expect it. After the encounter with Helen and Ira, Harry is broken - but with Sally on hand to lend some moral support. Additionally, we see Sally hit her low in the falling action when she discovers that Joe is getting married - more about that in a bit.
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Jess argues that the terrible table is characterful, while Marie believes it to be terrible. We witness the tensions that made Harry and Sally tick as friends become the kernel of their undoing. The tension is broken perfectly with a wise-crack from Marie, but we recognise that this is the first time we really see Harry in any state other than wise-guy. They escape this challenge untainted, but we see how complicated things are becoming for them.
So, through action and character, we see the central question starting to emerge to test the theme. Jess and Marie have become everything that both Sally and Harry have failed to become - settled. They show what a successful relationship looks like - heightened by the plain fact that both Harry and Sally are both in relationships, but are really pining after each other - again, threatening to reveal the truth behind the theme and the central question. Distraught, she calls Harry late at night in floods of tears.
The inevitability makes this no less dangerous - because this is going to be the ultimate test of their friendship. For her, this is a natural progression - and this could work. True to form, Harry immediately feels the urge to flee - his post-coital anxiety is alive and well. In Act 1 he described how women want to be held all night after sex, while all he really wants is to get the heck out of there. He projected his discomfort towards the situation into a problem in Sally - but, of course, we know that this is Harry problem.
This is the ultimate embodiment of the problem of the world - wham, bam, thank you mam, and escaping the clutches of need before the bedsheets have even settled. Act 3 begins in earnest as Harry and Sally meet for lunch, hoping to avoid the elephant in the room. They chomp noisily on a hilariously crunchy dressed salad. The silence is palpably punctuated with the rabbit-like crunch of raw veg - perhaps a subtle nod to rabbits and their reputation for fornication. They both admit it was a mistake - neither wanting to be the first to say it and sealing the fate on their friendship.
This is not going to end well. At the wedding, we have the cards on the table moment - Harry confronts Sally who - in true form - gives as good as she gets.
Harry tries to patch things up, but in true Harry style - manages to confuse the matter with his odd perspective on the world - the POTW continuing to ruin things for him. The argument erupts and spills into the kitchen where they have a very public, private conversation - a masterstroke of tension. If you ever need to liven up a scene, get a private situation forced out into the public domain - alternatively, having a very public bust-up in front of good friends, is equally cringe-worthy and engaging from a dramatic or comedic perspective.
The confrontation climaxes with Sally, who can no longer contain her hostility and slaps Harry around the face. Jess announces to the entire room that if either he or Marie had found either Harry or Sally remotely attractive, they would never have ended up together. The final humiliation. Back to Christmas, creating a wonderful circularity to the story. We see Sally struggling with a Christmas tree on her own again, a reflective nod to the fun of the previous year as Harry and Sally pair up to carry the tree home.
So, the new tension and twist has been cleverly punctuated by reflections on the previous year, perfectly highlighting how things have gone wrong; demonstrating that this new tension between Harry and Sally is destroying our romantic heroes. Cut to New Years Eve. Harry is alone, trying to reassure himself that spending NYE on your own is fine. Harry has a flashback to the previous year and a sudden epiphany, and he decides he needs some fresh air.
That need leads to a scene with just a little of a reflective nod to Dustin Hoffman running through the streets to break up the wedding in The Graduate. He finally arrives at the party and spots Sally across the room - of course he does. We witness the final confrontation and Harry finally reveals that he loves Sally for the little things with a masterful piece of actively convincing dialogue. His pleas to be listened to finally find traction, and Sally realises that this cold, arrogant arse who dumped her in a moment of need actually understands her.
He understands her high-maintenance quirks, he loves her little facial ticks, he loves that she orders her food her way. He loves that she is herself - something that Harry has always struggled to find in himself - and he proclaims in true romantic climax that he wants the rest of his life to start now - and he wants the rest of his life to mean that they spend the rest of their lives together. So, there we have it - three acts that deliver an emotional journey of friendship, misunderstanding, and eventual triumph and a subplot that delivers the emotional drive of the main story.
We discover characters that are crafted to conflict, while using quick-fire wit to make us love them and hope for a satisfying destiny for them. We have a central character who acts as the agent for change for our protagonist, and a protagonist who has to face his demons to finally overcome the problem of the world.
Listen back to this first series of the WFTS Podcast for pointers of what to look out for so that you can begin to recognise how your favourite pieces of fiction are constructed. Szilvi Naray-Davey.
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