Structure

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Beginning

The short story begins with an exposition about the Jordans and their son Dickie. On his 12th birthday, Dickie first learns about an exam he is supposed to take. 

The parents’ tense behaviour creates a tension point in the story, and a foreshadowing element for the importance of the exam: “Mrs Jordan first mentioned the subject in his presence, and the anxious manner of her speech cause her husband to answer sharply. ‘Forget about it,’ he said. ‘He’ll do all right.’ ” 

Other details contribute to a backstory on the Jordans. References to their small apart…

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Middle

In the rising action, the backstory on the government test is developed. We learn that the government drugs the children to ensure that they tell the truth, and that the people in this society do not protest this invasive measure, which creates further tension in the story.

Dickie reacts with confusion and fear to this information, creating another tension point in the story. However, his parents console him and promise him that they will celebrate after the test.

When Dickie and his father arrive at the testing facility, Dickie goes through several checkpoints, is given a drink,…

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Ending

In the brief falling action, Dickie’s mother cries out in horror, which is another foreshadowing element for his death.

In the resolution, the Jordans are informed about the options they have for Dickie’s burial: “ ‘You may specify by telephone,’ the voice droned on, ‘whether you wish his body interred by the Government, or would you prefer a pri…

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