Big Fish by Daniel Wallace Response

After finishing the book Big Fish by Daniel Wallace, I can say that it’s a pretty unconventional book for a few reasons. One being that it isn’t written in a typical fashion (sections and chapters composing a chronological order), but rather in a way that utilizes an overarching array of small stories that ambiguously tell the tale of the protagonist Edward Bloom’s life as interpreted by his son, Will Bloom. These stories are composed of his son’s tall tales of his dad’s rambunctious life. These tall tales vary from the beginning anecdote in which he leaves a sort of mystical fairy town, bypassing a ferocious and mysterious black dog that bites the fingers off of anyone who tries to leave to an account in which Edward befriends a sad, destructive and hungry town giant.

Big Fish is told from the bedside of the dying Edward Bloom with his son right next to him; desperately trying to squeeze an ounce of what he perceives truth to be from him. The stories start at the beginning of Edward’s life in which he’s a strong and hopeful man. In the end of the book when the stories catch up with Edward’s current situation in which his health and exterior energy starts to fail the stories about him get more realistic. For example how he gets a second wife and leaves her in favour of his numerous traveling habits. The heroic image of Edward starts to fail and crumble, although the essence of his Spirit is never really lost (as you’ll see if you read the book). The author, Daniel Wallace was greatly influenced by Greek myths and his own experience of separation from his dad, which would explain the mythical and fragmented presence of Edward Bloom in Big Fish.

The reason why this book uses these various stories is because the fictional writer of the book, Will Bloom never really got to know his father. He only heard these stories and the many jokes that Edward loved to tell. Although the stories are interesting and entertaining within themselves, the purpose they are put in the book for is much more realistic reason. Edward’s son is trying to find out the mystery his father has created about himself and wants to go beyond these myths and jokes to find the real him. Edward Bloom is kind of a jerk in this way because he always seems to hide (at least in a lot of the book) behind the façade of myths he creates. He’s like us in a way, in how we’re rarely willing to reveal (to others or to ourselves) our true motives for things, and continue to live in a not-helpful reality of lies. I don’t think we, like Edward can stop lying but I believe we can be delivered from the process. In the book, I think Edward’s main purpose in writing these stories is to get Bloom to be delivered from these stories he tells.

The book is down to earth in that way; in how there’s no big events or anything (beyond the fact that most of the stories are very mythical). It presents reality in an abstract and ambiguous but very realistic way by saying that we don’t change too much on one level, and yet I think that one of the messages of the book is that radical transformation can happen, and should be dearly hoped for!

Overall, although I never really got in to Big Fish to the extent that I couldn’t put it down, it was definitely worth reading because it presents all-to-real realities of life in an endearing and capturing way. If you’ve seen the movie or just want to read a pretty good book, I’d suggest you check it out.


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