People often choose the occupation which is familiar to them from their childhood because of their parents’ specialization or because of the extreme interest in some spheres. Michael Dorris presents his vision of the role of a profession in the person’s life in his short story “The Benchmark”.
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Frank, the protagonist of the story, feels a real passion for his work in the field of hydrology, and different stages of his life are closely connected with his occupation. Although it is typical to portray characters with references to their work, Dorris explores the theme of the protagonist’s occupation paying attention to the role of the profession in Frank’s life as the way to feel pain and be happy at different life stages and concentrating on the protagonist’s attitude to the vocation.
Frank’s interest in hydrology can be explained with references to his father’s work. Frank became the follower of his father’s ideas and made water and water objects a significant part of his life. It is important to note that the protagonist’s passion for his work can be discussed as extreme because Frank is inclined to assess the other people according to their attitude to his passion.
Thus, Frank’s wife Martha should also overcome the test on the attitude to the water and Frank’s occupation. That is why, Frank hopes that his children could follow his business. However, Frank states, “it bothers me, when I let it, that I’ve apprenticed no successor (Dorris 502). The protagonist feels a kind of frustration understanding that his children are not interested in his work.
The author develops the theme of vocation as the protagonist’s way to escape from the reality. Moreover, the aspects of Frank’s occupation form his reality that is why all the tragic and happy situations are connected with the particular features of his work. Thus, Frank hopes that his son Ben can become a good successor. The protagonist states that by the time Ben was seven “he was my number one. He had the eye, no question.
He could sense the vibration of water it moved under layers of dry ground, could calculate on a sunny day the route a rain spill might follow” (Dorris 504). Nevertheless, the favourite occupation can become the source of the pain. Ben dies, and the cause of his death is closely associated with the result of his father’s work. However, this tragic situation does not influence Frank’s attitude to his work because now his occupation is his way to overcome the depression.
Dorris accentuates that Frank experienced some changes in his attitude to work, but in spite of any situations, hydrology remains to take the first position in his life. Frank stresses, “I became less my father’s son and more a man for himself, in my own eyes as well as in the estimate of others” (Dorris 506).
Frank continues to build ponds after the death of his son, and he understands that his actions can be discussed as indirect causes of his son’s death, but hydrology is the most significant part of his life which helps him recover from any situation.
In his short story “The Benchmark”, Michael Dorris discusses the theme of a person’s work from the perspective of considering a profession as a real obsession of a man who tries to find all the necessary emotions and feelings while doing his work. From this point, the occupation can become the source of the real happiness and significant pain.
Dorris, Michael. “The Benchmark”. Water and Culture: Unifying the Humanities Core Curriculum. Ed. Matthias Schubnell. USA: University of the Incarnate Word, 2011. 501-507. Print.