Measuring the Jump

Author

Eggers, Dave

Genre

Short Story

Overview

Dave Eggers rocketed to fame with his memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000). He also founded the literary journal, McSweeny’s, noted for its dry humor, cleverness, and Generation X sensibility. This short story follows Fish, a young man on the way to visit his cousin, Adam, who has just tried to kill himself for the seventh time. Every time Fish ʺfinishes this drive he vows never again, and then two months later he's here, punching the window, back soaked, left arm sunburned, cursing himself.ʺ Fish has long since given up the idea that he can help Adam: ʺnow he knows he's a spectator, a parent watching a child's sporting event, hands twisted into fists, unable to influence the outcome.ʺ The story raises questions about our responsibility to care for family, even for those whom we don't much like and whether it is enough sometimes merely to be an observer.

Full Text*

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Source

How We Are Hungry: Stories, Dave Eggers (McSweeney's Books, 2004).

Type

Reading

Themes

Connection and RelationshipCrisis and ConflictGiving and ReceivingLeadership and ResponsibilityServing and Volunteering

Big Questions

What makes it possible for us to connect to others? What gets in the way?Why is connection important? What does it enable? What does it impede?How should we respond to crisis?Is crisis a destructive force or an opportunity for renewal?How much should I give? What, if anything, might limit my giving?When I give, what do I expect in return? What do I receive?What is my responsibility to the people I lead?Is my service effective? How do I know?Should we keep a distance from the people we serve?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What do you make of the line, ʺnow he knows he's a spectator, a parent watching a child's sporting event, hands twisted into fists, unable to influence the outcomeʺ?
  2. How would you describe Adam and Fish's relationship?
  3. Fish says he attracts ʺthese peopleʺ like the mailman who made him a collage and the high school classmate who asked him drive to Florida. Why do you think he attracts ʺthese peopleʺ? What responsibilities does he have to ʺthese peopleʺ?
  4. What responsibilities do we have for others, especially when they are not responsible for themselves?
  5. Is there a limit to our responsibilities for others?
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