Skip to content
The Magic and Melancholy of ‘Tenth of December’: A Summary by George Saunders

The Magic and Melancholy of ‘Tenth of December’: A Summary by George Saunders

In his short story collection “Tenth of December,” George Saunders explores the complexities of human emotion through a range of characters and scenarios. From the darkly comedic to the deeply poignant, Saunders’ writing captures both the magic and melancholy of the human experience. In this summary, we will delve into the themes and motifs of “Tenth of December” and examine how Saunders’ unique voice and style make this collection a must-read for fans of contemporary literature.

George Saunders: A Brief Introduction

George Saunders is a renowned American author, essayist, and professor of creative writing. He was born in Amarillo, Texas, in 1958, and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Saunders has published several books, including short story collections, novellas, and essays. He is known for his unique writing style, which blends humor, satire, and social commentary. Saunders has won numerous awards for his work, including the National Magazine Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, and the Folio Prize. He currently teaches creative writing at Syracuse University in New York. In this article, we will explore Saunders’ latest book, “Tenth of December,” and delve into the magic and melancholy of his writing.

The Plot of ‘Tenth of December’

The plot of “Tenth of December” is a collection of ten short stories that explore the human condition in a variety of settings and situations. The stories range from a dystopian future where people are forced to participate in a deadly game show to a suburban neighborhood where a young boy learns about the complexities of race and class. Throughout the collection, Saunders weaves together themes of isolation, empathy, and the struggle to connect with others. Each story is a masterful exploration of the human psyche, and together they create a powerful portrait of the modern world. Whether you’re a fan of literary fiction or just looking for a thought-provoking read, “Tenth of December” is a must-read.

The Magic of Saunders’ Writing Style

Saunders’ writing style is truly magical. He has a way of weaving together humor and heartbreak in a way that is both unexpected and deeply affecting. His use of language is also masterful, with each sentence crafted to perfection. Saunders’ ability to create fully realized characters in just a few pages is truly remarkable, and his stories often leave a lasting impression on readers. Whether he is exploring the complexities of human relationships or delving into the darker corners of the human psyche, Saunders’ writing is always thought-provoking and deeply moving.

The Theme of Isolation and Loneliness

One of the most prominent themes in George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” is the theme of isolation and loneliness. Throughout the collection of short stories, Saunders explores the ways in which his characters are disconnected from the world around them and the people in their lives. From the socially awkward teenager in “Victory Lap” to the elderly man in “The Semplica-Girl Diaries,” who is isolated by his own wealth and privilege, Saunders’ characters are all struggling to connect with others and find meaning in their lives. This theme of isolation and loneliness is particularly poignant in “Escape from Spiderhead,” where the protagonist is trapped in a dystopian world where emotions are controlled by drugs and human connection is all but impossible. Through his exploration of this theme, Saunders highlights the importance of human connection and the devastating effects of isolation and loneliness.

The Dark Humor of ‘Tenth of December’

Saunders’ “Tenth of December” is a collection of short stories that explores the human condition with a darkly humorous twist. The author’s unique style of blending humor with tragedy is evident throughout the book, making it a thought-provoking and entertaining read. From a man who decides to end his life by jumping into a frozen lake to a group of teenagers who stumble upon a dying man in the woods, the stories in “Tenth of December” are filled with unexpected twists and turns that keep readers on the edge of their seats. Despite the heavy subject matter, Saunders’ use of humor adds a layer of levity to the stories, making them all the more poignant and memorable. Whether you’re a fan of dark humor or simply looking for a thought-provoking read, “Tenth of December” is a must-read.

The Characters in ‘Tenth of December’

The characters in George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” are complex and multifaceted, each with their own struggles and desires. From the socially awkward and self-conscious Don Eber to the terminally ill and contemplative Robin, Saunders creates a cast of characters that are both relatable and unique. The stories in “Tenth of December” explore themes of isolation, mortality, and the human condition, and the characters are the vehicles through which these themes are explored. Saunders’ ability to create fully realized and empathetic characters is one of the many reasons why “Tenth of December” is such a powerful and moving collection of stories.

Saunders’ Use of Language and Syntax

One of the most striking aspects of George Saunders’ writing is his use of language and syntax. He has a unique way of crafting sentences that are both poetic and conversational, and his use of repetition and fragmentation adds to the overall effect of his stories.

In “Tenth of December,” Saunders’ language is particularly effective in conveying the inner thoughts and emotions of his characters. For example, in the story “Escape from Spiderhead,” the protagonist Jeff’s thoughts are conveyed in a stream-of-consciousness style that mirrors his frantic state of mind. Saunders also uses repetition to emphasize certain phrases or ideas, such as the repeated use of the phrase “darkening sky” in “The Semplica-Girl Diaries.”

Saunders’ syntax is also notable for its use of fragmentation and unconventional sentence structure. He often breaks up sentences into fragments, creating a staccato rhythm that adds to the tension and urgency of his stories. In “Victory Lap,” for example, the fragmented sentences used during the climax of the story create a sense of chaos and confusion that mirrors the characters’ emotional states.

Overall, Saunders’ use of language and syntax is a key element of his unique writing style. It allows him to convey complex emotions and ideas in a way that is both poetic and accessible, and adds to the overall impact of his stories.

The Role of Technology in the Stories

In “Tenth of December,” technology plays a significant role in shaping the stories and the characters’ experiences. From the futuristic medical technology that prolongs life to the virtual reality game that offers an escape from reality, Saunders explores the ways in which technology can both enhance and detract from human connection and empathy. The characters’ interactions with technology also highlight the dangers of relying too heavily on machines and losing touch with our own humanity. Overall, Saunders’ use of technology in the stories adds a layer of complexity to the themes of isolation, empathy, and the human condition.

The Criticism of Capitalism and Consumerism

Saunders’ “Tenth of December” is a poignant critique of capitalism and consumerism. The story’s characters are all driven by a desire for material wealth and status, leading them to make morally questionable decisions. The protagonist, for example, is willing to risk his life to save a stranger in order to prove his worth to his boss and secure a promotion.

Saunders’ portrayal of the characters’ obsession with consumerism highlights the negative effects of capitalism on society. The characters are so consumed by their desire for material possessions that they are willing to sacrifice their own well-being and the well-being of others to attain them.

Furthermore, the story suggests that capitalism and consumerism create a sense of isolation and loneliness. The characters are all disconnected from each other, unable to form meaningful relationships or connections. They are all too focused on their own individual pursuits to care about the needs and desires of others.

Overall, Saunders’ “Tenth of December” is a powerful critique of the negative effects of capitalism and consumerism on society. The story serves as a reminder that there are more important things in life than material possessions and that our obsession with consumerism can lead us down a dangerous path.

The Symbolism of the Winter Setting

The winter setting in George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” serves as a powerful symbol throughout the collection of short stories. The cold and barren landscape reflects the emotional state of the characters, who are often struggling with loneliness, isolation, and despair. The snow and ice also represent the harsh realities of life, as well as the potential for transformation and renewal. In “Victory Lap,” for example, the snow-covered neighborhood becomes a treacherous obstacle course for a young boy trying to save a girl from a kidnapper. In “The Semplica Girl Diaries,” the frozen ground serves as a reminder of the characters’ inability to escape their oppressive social and economic circumstances. Overall, the winter setting in “Tenth of December” adds depth and complexity to the stories, highlighting the universal themes of human struggle and resilience.

The Critique of American Society

Saunders’ “Tenth of December” is a scathing critique of American society, particularly its obsession with consumerism and the pursuit of wealth. The characters in the stories are often trapped in dead-end jobs, struggling to make ends meet, and desperate for a way out. The stories also highlight the stark divide between the haves and have-nots, with the wealthy living in gated communities and the poor struggling to survive in rundown neighborhoods. Saunders’ portrayal of American society is bleak and uncompromising, but it is also a call to action. He urges readers to question the values that underpin our society and to work towards a more just and equitable future.

The Importance of Empathy in the Stories

Empathy is a crucial element in any story, and it is especially important in George Saunders’ “Tenth of December.” The characters in Saunders’ stories are often struggling with difficult situations, and it is through empathy that readers can truly understand and connect with them. By putting ourselves in the shoes of these characters, we can gain a deeper understanding of their motivations, fears, and desires. This, in turn, allows us to appreciate the complexity and richness of Saunders’ writing, and to fully appreciate the magic and melancholy of his stories. Whether we are reading about a lonely man trying to connect with his daughter, or a young girl struggling to survive in a dystopian world, empathy is the key to unlocking the true power of Saunders’ work. So if you want to truly appreciate the beauty and depth of “Tenth of December,” be sure to approach it with an open heart and a willingness to empathize with its characters.

The Influence of Saunders’ Personal Life on the Stories

George Saunders’ personal life has had a significant impact on his writing, particularly in his collection of short stories, “Tenth of December.” Saunders has spoken openly about his struggles with depression and anxiety, and these themes are present throughout many of his stories. In “The Semplica-Girl Diaries,” for example, the protagonist’s obsession with achieving the American Dream is a reflection of Saunders’ own experiences growing up in a working-class family. Similarly, the story “Escape from Spiderhead” explores the ethical implications of using drugs to control emotions, a topic that Saunders has discussed in interviews as a result of his own experiences with medication. By drawing on his personal life in his writing, Saunders is able to create stories that are both deeply personal and universally relatable.

The Role of Family and Relationships in the Stories

In George Saunders’ “Tenth of December,” family and relationships play a crucial role in shaping the characters and their experiences. The stories explore the complexities of familial bonds, the impact of loss and grief, and the power of human connection. From the strained relationship between a mother and son in “Escape from Spiderhead” to the tender bond between a dying man and his daughter in “Tenth of December,” Saunders delves into the intricacies of human relationships with both humor and heartbreak. Through his vivid and empathetic portrayals of characters, Saunders reminds us of the importance of love, compassion, and understanding in our own lives.

The Critique of Political Systems

In “Tenth of December,” George Saunders offers a critique of political systems through his portrayal of a dystopian society. The story takes place in a world where the government has created a program called “MERCY” that euthanizes individuals deemed to be a burden on society. Saunders uses this program to highlight the dangers of a government that values efficiency over humanity. The characters in the story are forced to navigate a system that is rigged against them, and their struggles serve as a warning against the dangers of unchecked government power. Through his critique of political systems, Saunders reminds us of the importance of protecting individual rights and freedoms in the face of oppressive regimes.

The Use of Satire in the Stories

Saunders’ use of satire in his stories is a defining characteristic of his writing style. He often employs humor and irony to critique societal norms and values. In “Tenth of December,” Saunders uses satire to comment on the absurdity of the American Dream and the capitalist system. The story “Escape from Spiderhead” satirizes the pharmaceutical industry and the ethics of human experimentation. Through his use of satire, Saunders challenges readers to question their own beliefs and the world around them.

The Impact of ‘Tenth of December’ on Contemporary Literature

George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” has had a significant impact on contemporary literature since its publication in 2013. The collection of short stories has been praised for its unique blend of humor, heartbreak, and social commentary. Saunders’ writing style, which often features unconventional narrative structures and experimental language, has influenced a new generation of writers. Additionally, the themes explored in “Tenth of December,” such as the human condition, morality, and the effects of capitalism on society, continue to resonate with readers and writers alike. Overall, “Tenth of December” has cemented Saunders’ place as a literary icon and has left a lasting impression on the literary landscape.

The Reception of ‘Tenth of December’ by Critics and Readers

The reception of George Saunders’ “Tenth of December” has been overwhelmingly positive, both among critics and readers. The collection of short stories has been praised for its unique blend of humor, heartbreak, and social commentary. Many critics have noted Saunders’ ability to create fully-realized characters in just a few pages, and his skill at crafting stories that are both entertaining and thought-provoking. Readers have also responded enthusiastically to the book, with many citing it as one of their favorite reads of the year. Overall, “Tenth of December” has been hailed as a masterpiece of contemporary fiction, and a testament to Saunders’ talent as a writer.