Tag Archives: Flash Fiction

Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter E




is for Equivocation




Equivocation occurs when someone uses ambiguous or unclear language with the intent to mislead or deceive (full definition). One example of this I like is from Macbeth by William Shakespeare in act 1 scene 6 when Lady Macbeth says to King Duncan upon his arrival to her castle:

All our service In every point twice done and then done double Were poor and single business to contend Against those honours deep and broad wherewith Your majesty loads our house.

Lady Macbeth equivocates here. On the surface, it may seem as if she is pandering to Duncan, telling him if they could do everything in their power double and then double again, it wouldn’t be enough to repay him for honouring their house with his visit. Alternately, she could be saying this sarcastically. All that Duncan has done for them at this point, besides honouring Macbeth with the thane of Cawdor title, is appoint Malcolm instead of Macbeth as his successor, something for which both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth deeply resent him. In the short story “A Grave Situation“, protagonist Sam Roeper mourns his wife after she’s left him, tending his garden to help pass the time. Toward the end of the story he lets his neighbour in on his gardening secret when he says,

“It’s all in your choice of fertilizer. Take the one I use, for example. Works like a charm. I have it on good authority its the same fertilizer they use at the graveyard.”

Here, Roeper deceives  his neighbour to believe he, too, could have the same green thumb if he purchases the same fertilizer used by the local cemetery. He equivocates because the one fertilizer the graveyard has in abundance is decomposing human flesh, hinting that Roeper’s wife isn’t missing; he knows exactly where she is: buried in his garden feeding the flowers planted there. Can you think of any examples of equivocation in literature, television or in the movies? Did you get the subtext behind it? Post your examples in the comments section below.

Once Upon A Time is Coming!

In preparation for the new season of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, I took some time to go over some of the classics associated with the show. I re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, partially to “borrow” allusions and create symbols for my Alice Untitled story, but also in anticipation of the premiere of Once Upon A Time in Wonderland. I also went back to read up on Rumplestiltskin’s origins.

In the Grimms’  version, a miller boasts that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The greedy king of the realm locks the daughter up demanding she spin a roomful of straw into gold. The daughter cries and Rumplestiltskin, a plain-looking dwarf of a man, helps her in exchange for a necklace. The same thing happens the next day and, thanks to Rumplestiltskin, the daughter delivers. On the third day, the king promises that if she spins the gold he will make her his queen. Having nothing else to trade, the daughter promises Rumplestiltskin her first born. After the child is born and she decides she doesn’t want to give the child up, Rumplestilstkin tells her that if she guesses his name, she will be allowed to keep it. They hire someone to tail the dwarf and hear him singing his name as he gloats. The next day, the queen “guesses” his name and is allowed to keep the child.

OUAT’s version incorporates much of Rumple’s archetypal story in “The Miller’s Daughter”, and in snippets woven into other characters’ origin stories. OUAT’s Rumple starts out as the fearless trickster imp, granting favours in exchange for what each of the characters holds dear. The character is broadened by the writers to personify Belle’s Beast and Hook’s Croc. The Trickster, the Cowardly Lover and the Adversary are portrayed with most excellent skill by Robert Carlyle. The same goes for Gold, Rumple’s real-world counterpart.

In my search for an online version of Rumple’s origin story, I found “Rumpelstiltskin in Love“, a flash-fiction short story by KC Norton that tells the story of the dwarf as he raises a child. We learn Rumpel is not the child’s father. He has also raised other children, now grown and moved away. The child asks about his mother and Rumpel answers vaguely, hoping to spare the child the heartache of knowing his mother gave him up to save herself. This shows that in addition to being a trickster who is vain and greedy he is caring and lonely, someone who longs for human love, someone who cannot find a woman to love him because he is ugly, so he settles for the unconditional love of a succession of children, each of which winds up breaking his heart when they grow to maturity.

OUAT‘s Rumple embodies the characteristics of both tellings. As previously stated, he is a trickster, someone who makes deals with desperate people without compassion. But he also has a human side, one that is achingly lonely, and believes himself unlovable, in spite of–or maybe because of–his power. This Rumple has compassion, though begrudgingly so. He is a romantic who believes in his own happy ending in spite of himself.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for OUAT season 3 to unfold as the crew travels to Neverland to rescue Henry and discover new facets to the characters, especially Rumplestiltskin. In the mean time, go to the Flash Fiction website and read “Rumpelstiltskin in Love” to tide you over. Let me know what you think about this poignant addition to the mythology.