Charles Baxter’s “The Cousins”

In Charles Baxter’s “The Cousins,” the conflict appears between two cousins. Both the narrator and his cousin are equally wealthy, thanks to their grandfather’s fortune, but Brantford is 20 years younger than the narrator and a squanderer. The tension between them is not what one might think, the narrator isn’t jealous or annoyed with his cousin. Instead the narrator is a lens through which the reader is able to understand Brantford. Brantford is as a sad character who is more comfortable with animals than with people and who admits that “willpower is not my strong suit.” The tension in the story intensifies when Brantford wonders out loud if he had committed the murder and the narrator admits to himself and the reader that he in fact did. Overall the story is interesting and Baxter’s technique is effective in building various tensions. Tension is apparently resolved when Bradford accidentally kills himself by stepping into the intersection but new tensions between the narrator and Brantford’s wife are introduced. Thus on one hand the plot develops and results one tension but then contributes to new ones. Overall, the story appears to be written all in reflection and as a result certain elements, like the segment about the Ethiopian cabdriver, appear out of place. I am not sure what the story is trying to achieve thus I’m not sure if it succeeds. Though it may not appear from this analysis, I actually really enjoyed the story however the meandering nature of it makes it a little difficult to analyze.

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