“The Drought” by Nicole Cloutier
“The Drought” is beautiful and bleak at the same time, like a devastated landscape. This story reminds me of Blake Butler’s Scorch Atlas, functioning both as a survival narrative and a sort of textual landscape painting: this is what the end will look like, the story suggests. And the details are absolutely on point throughout: the buzzing flies, the rotting fruit, the silhouetted buildings beneath the water. (Yes, I know this story about a flood is called, ironically, “The Drought”–that’s something to think about, naturally.)
Let’s talk about POV for a moment. The story is told in the first person plural, an interesting choice, but appropriate. What function does the “We” pronoun serve? I suppose its primary purpose is to collect the disparate members of the community and make them into a single character, one body with one voice. This is a story about a disaster’s impact on a community, after all, so every narrative detail is a product of implied consensus, of mutual experience. This story simply wouldn’t have worked if written in the first person.
“We” is the most authoritative of the POVs at a writer’s disposal. Think about it: what is more persuasive or authoritative than a voice comprised of many (implied) voices? We is the pronoun of Majority Rules, of We’re in Charge, Bitch. Perhaps that’s why egotistical people use the “Royal We”–to reinforce their own sense that they count as more than one person, importance-wise.
The We-character in “The Drought,” while wielding the authority of a whole community, is far from in control, as you will seen when reading this piece. Perhaps this is why the We begins to disintegrate toward the end of the story, the community becoming smaller. It’s fascinating how the speaker/voice of this story comes apart—in keeping with its devastated environment.