Dec 13, 2017 in Literature

Narrative Closure: Terry Bisson’s Macs


Terry Bisson’s Macs can be classified as a short story in the science fiction genre. The story involves dialogue between an investigator and several people. The people complain that clones made from the person who killed their loved ones were used for satisfaction of The Victims’ Rights Closure Settlement. The state fails to execute a mass murderer who is instead cloned (Smith, 2010). The clones disturb the families of the mass murderer's victims instead of offering them closure. The story closely mirrors happenings around the Oklahoma bomb of 1995. The author uses science fiction as a means to discuss a contemporary political and social issue from an angle which would have been complicated without science fiction.


All the clones in the book are docile and none look the same as the mass murderer. Families of the victims were shooting the cloned macs they did not like as a form of closure. Towards the end of the story we learn that there is a family that was given a mac as part of The Victim’s rights Closure Program after losing a loved one in Oklahoma City bombings. Tragedy struck again and the entire family was wiped away before they could get closure (Van, 2012).  Now only a homeless guy hangs around the family home and nobody dares get close to him. Police ran him out three and he now lives in a dumpster at the end of the hall.

Modes of Address

The story is narrated to readers in real time and uses ordinary language to deliver an extra-ordinary idea. The timeline is simple, and there is no time for flash backs in the story. Past tense is the key tense used as opposed to the present tense. Jargon is used, but the writer steers clear from using any dialect. There is no use of dreams, flash backs or fantasies. Art direction requires fewer scientific objects (Smith, 2010). Terry Bisson controls how the information is released in the entire story and from the first line the reader learns that the macs are in control. The writer is also stingy with words and unlike his approach in the novels, where he befriends the readers, in the short stories he is both the adversary and the accomplice of the reader.

The story does not focus on several ideas and what makes it a great read is the fact that it sticks to one or two ideas. The main characters are not given the time to tell the other characters the story. There are only one or two impediments or challenges in the story, as too many impediments would have ruined the story. The characters work at cross proposes and some of them are killed to give the story deeper meaning. The setting of the story is limited to one location in the city of Oklahoma. The story is narrated in the first person (Smith, 2010). Characters are not given funny names and humor is highly limited in the story. The author does not meander or dirges in his narration and tells the facts as they are. The misdirection that the story takes, where a family that gets one of the macs dies before it can get closure, is intriguing to the reader. Terry Bisson has interwoven mystery in the story making it hard to predict.

The author uses polished words and they prove to be more important in the story than events and characters. There is a paradox in the story which makes it an interesting to read. The author achieves symmetry in the story and the narrative is made in a pleasing way that culminates in the climax of the story which leaves the reader hungering for more as the story ends too soon (Van, 2012). Planned surprises like being given macs as a form of the Victims Closure program are a welcome relief in the story, as they do not make the story to seem so obvious and, hence, loose the meaning. The author steers clear from sexual and racial stereotypes and finishes the try without coming across as offensive to any particular group of people. There is no heavy description of the characters and the characters in the stork speak for themselves through their actions. Ideas are repeated in the story and they play a major part in achieving symmetry in the story.

Type of Reader

The writer deliberately leaves some information out and it seems the narrative is aimed at an active reader rather than a passive reader. Terry knows that when the reader knows everything then the story is basically over. He withdraws as much information as he can for as long as possible keeping the reader in suspense (Van, 2012). He touches both the sympathetic and the cruel reader. To understand the plot and the style, the reader must get involved and self-question the concepts being put forward by Terry in the short story. A passive reader will fail to understand Terry Bisson’s story since it calls for intellectual digestion and engagement.


Ideally the narrative closure offers the reader a clear outcome of the eventualities. It offers a final and definite ending to the story. The narrative closure may also form the eventual part of the resolution in the story’s structure. Ideological closure refers to an author’s attempts to directly interpret events. To me, the novel lacks narrative closure. It is not possible to determine the story’s truth. There are several questions that are left unanswered at the end of the story. For instance, what exactly happened to the real mass murder? The real McCoy? Terry tries to imply that he could have died like the rest of them, but at the same time implies that there is rumor that he survived. The reader is left wondering where he could be and whether there is a chance of committing another crime. It is not also very clear what exactly happened to the family that was living with a mac, but was wiped out before getting closure. Did the Mac start the fire? The writer leaves the reader hanging with more questions than answers.

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