The following essay is about the chapter, “Another Fine Mess” by Ray Bradbury. This story is about two old women, Bella and Zelda who are seeking for love.
These women encountered two ghosts who were also looking for love and affection and helped them realize that they were loved too.
This brings me to the topic for this essay, that is, how Ray Bradbury has used doppelgangers to reveal the protagonists’ character.
People may assume by first reading, that this story is just about two old women who encountered these ghosts and gave them love, however, on close observation one can notice that ‘stairs’ is actually a metaphor for age and that the two ghosts are doppelgangers of the two protagonists named Bella and Zelda.
Bella Winters had just moved to an old apartment near Effie Street in Los Angeles. Ray Bradbury described it as: “old house on an old street with an old staircase” (393).
He uses the word old a couple of times in the story just to point the reader’s attention to the fact that Bella was an old lady.
Old house, old streets, and old staircase are actually a metaphor for her old age. When he says that: “lived there now for only a few days, so it was all new to her” (393), he actually means that Bella is at the start of her old age and that the fact that she gets less appreciation now is new to her. Readers know that Bella is less appreciated now because she says: “So what can happen at night to a woman fifty-five, fat, and ugly?” (394).
At the start of the story one can say that there might be two people moving-in or delivering a piano but when Bella went down the stairs where she heard the voices were coming from: “Suddenly she was very cold” (395), here cold means that there was some supernatural entity there.
The existence of the ghost was now confirmed because there was no one when she went down and she could hear the voices when she was up the stairs. The two ghosts were yelling at each other and this is what one said to another: “Here’s another fine mess you’ve got us in” (394). After hearing this, Bella froze.
She realized that she had heard these sentences before and that she knew what’s going to be said next. All she could think is to call Zelda, her childhood best friend. Both of them used to go and watch plays when they were children.
Bradbury again reminds us of the fact that Bella and Zelda are old by stating the following: “old hill near the old steps in old Hollywood” on page 397 reminding us of the fact that they are old and not loved.
Then, on page 398 Bella said “and sometimes when you’re sick you forget” Bella has clearly been there and can sense and feel the pain of being old, useless, and probably forgotten.
Bradbury uses these two ghosts as doppelgangers to reveal the feelings of the two old women looking for love. When Zelda was thinking why are the ghosts here, she said: “Love maybe’s the reason” (398).
This shows us that Bella has been there and has felt the same and thinks that all a person needs is love. Also, Bella says: “Maybe nobody told them” (398). She also says: “Or maybe they were told a lot but still didn’t believe” (398), because her husband Sam also tells her but not enough and doesn’t shows her the love she needed.
The ghosts are actually the doppelgangers of Bella and Zelda and the stairs are probably a metaphor for age. Bella and Zelda are on the top of the stairs, which means they are old and the ghosts who are the doppelgangers of them were at bottom of the stairs, which probably means they symbolize the younger versions of Bella and Zelda.
In fact, the doppelgangers were no one other than their childhood favourite characters Ollie and Stanley by Laurel and Hardy. They gave love to the ghosts so that the ghosts can be in peace and get the love they wanted and deserved.
The words that Bradbury uses while describing the ghosts’ feelings: “yelling, tripping, shouting, warning the Fates, crying out to the Gods” (402), show the feelings of the two women: “hearing, feeling, shouting, crying themselves” (402).
In this short story, Ray Bradbury was trying to show us that the doppelgangers actually reveal the feeling of the protagonists. The protagonists are old and want love from people around them but they don’t admit it.
The fact that they need love is revealed with the help of their doppelgangers. The doppelgangers need affection and the protagonists know how it feels to want love so they provide them with affection.
Once the doppelgangers get the affection, indirectly, the protagonists get the feeling of love. The two women tell the ghosts to come back once every year so that they can give the ghost some love and remind themselves that they are loved and appreciated by someone.