Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Mary Carroll-Hackett, M.F.A

Second Advisor

Robert L. Lynch, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Robert "Brett" Hursey, Ph.D.


This thesis, Spilling Over: A Collection of Short Stories, explores the concept of finding your place in the world. Nowhere is an individual more tested in discovering their own identity, their purpose, their place, than in direct relation to familial influence. In this collection, this idea of influence and growth into an individual, translates into a focus on the changing interactions in a family unit.

My characters are individuals in the midst of acknowledging a change in their family dynamics. These changes are sometimes unavoidable, such as reactions to death, disease, pregnancy, or divorce, which cause immediate changes within a family creating both conflict and tension. Characters discover negative and positive aspects of family, while they expand their understanding of how their family functions and their place in it.

"Snapping Beans," "A Staying Hand," and several other short stories investigate positive changes that are made by the main character. These changes suggest a desire to strengthen family bonds. "Bottles," for example, follows Arthur. He comes to a realization that his alcoholism, exacerbated by his wife's death, isolates him from his family. His disgust with the situation leaves the impression that he will make a positive change that will bring him closer to his family. Not every character comes to a positive realization about family. "White Hydrangea" leads Karin to an understanding that both of her parents are imperfect. Not a positive view of family. But realizing that parents are people too is often difficult, and, to a certain degree, a disappointing realization for some children to come to. Stories, like "White Hydrangea" challenges the stereotype of a

happy family, living in peaceful coexistence, in favor of the more turbulent family that has painful moments and miscommunications.

"Nothing to Do with Nothing,""Save Yourself," and "Technicolor" are perhaps the only three stories that seem less invested in the concept of discovery of self through family. However, I would argue that "Nothing to Do with Nothing" is family focused, concerning itself with the concept of family values and how those values influences an individual's actions. "Thanks to Molly" and "Technicolor," on the other hand, repackages the idea of identity in relation to family into identity in society. Their rejection of social norms reveals their identity, good or bad.



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