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Masculinity in “Refresh, Refresh” Story by Percy

Setting is an element of fiction often used by authors to support the ideas and themes presented in a literary work. Setting refers to the place and time where the story takes place and may include social statuses, weather, historical period, and details about immediate surroundings (Elements of Fiction). The setting of a story is crucial as it affects all the characters and sometimes can become a nonhuman character. The present paper analyzes the relationship between the central theme of masculinity in Benjamin Percy’s Refresh, Refresh, and the setting of the story. The story’s setting helps the children in the story become real men as it promotes violence, pain, and internalizing emotions.

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The story Refresh, Refresh takes place in a small town Crow, which does not have many male citizens. The author describes that the town was populated only by three types of men: old, incapable, and vulturous (Percy 3). All the worthy men left to fight a war in Iraq, leaving their children and wives, hoping that they will come back alive and well. The narrator and his best friend Gordon are teenagers who mimic their fathers as they wait for their return by fighting, hunting, and riding their dirt bikes in the wilderness. At the end of the story, the teenagers find out that Gordon’s father was killed at war, and they take their anger out on the closest manifestation of war, recruitment officer Dave Lightener.

The setting of the story is often wild and violent. The narrator and Gordon live in a small town near a forest and a Hole in the Ground left by a meteor. The author believes that men are supposed to go into the wilderness and slaughter a large beast to prove they were real men (Williams). The teenagers in the story have the chance to prove they are worthy of their fathers as they hunt down and carve a dear (Percy 4). They took their chances and never flinched in front of danger. The boys described in the story are alpha males living in the wild who can provide meat for the table.

The fact that the town is located near thHolele reminds the reader that real men always live a dangerous life. One could never be sure that another meteor did not land on someone’s house. The boys lived to accept that danger and always be prepared for it. The fact that the teenagers leave scared Dave who did not accept the risks of the real world near the Hole tells that in Percy’s eyes masculinity is associated with living on the edge. A real man should always be prepared to die with honor.

In general, the setting of the story helps boys become men as they fight against the danger of the environment. The boys live their lives surviving through the heat, cold, rain, snow, and dirt time of war makes the teenagers accept the losses of their most loved ones hiding their emotions behind anger and alcohol. According to Percy, the story pictures men in pain, and as “they don’t know how to talk their way through it, they swing it out of their system” (Williams). Thus, the setting of war, wilderness, and eminent dangers help the boys to adhere to Percy’s idea of a real man: violent, uncompromising and prepared for all possible dangers.


Elements of Fiction. Handout.

Percy, Benjamin. Refresh, Refresh. The Paris Review, 2005.

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Williams, Christopher. “Painfully Masculine: An Interview with Benjamin Percy.” 2008, Web.

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