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Description of the Encounter
Fast Enough, the 23rd episode of the first season of The Flash, centers on Barry’s quest to go back in time to save his mother from being killed by Thawne and the ensuing dilemma concerning the best choice for Barry as well as the potential repercussions. Thawne was so disappointed at his failure to defeat Barry in his future that he decided to hatch a plan to cause a tragedy so severe that it would affect Barry mentally and emotionally, thereby preventing him from becoming the Flash. The plan included stabbing Barry’s mother, Nora, to death, which unfortunately left Thawne stranded in the past and unable to go back to the future. His only choice was to create Barry by giving him super speed with the intention of using him to open a portal to his world. The conversation between Joe and Iris West is set in this scenario as the father and daughter discuss this new information concerning the death of Barry’s mother. The two relive the events that followed Nora’s tragic death, the subsequent incarceration of Barry’s father, and how hospitable both Joe and Iris were when Barry moved in to live with them. Both Barry and Iris were still children at the time and Barry barely understood the heartrending events that had just transpired.
Analysis of the Interaction
The first apparent concept from the transcription is complementing. Complements refer to the positive expressions that occur in conversations among higher or equal status interlocutors and which may be used to either open or smooth a conversation by buttressing the solidarity relationship between the participants. In most cases, complements are used to evaluate qualities such as possessions, personal appearance, accomplishments, or skills. Further, complements in English conversations are typically formulaic in nature, with regard to both their forms and meaning. Moreover, the use of complements allows interlocutors to feel appreciated, thereby facilitating the achievement of conversational goals. Complementing may also imply the use of nonverbal cues to elaborate on spoken messages in an attempt to underpin the message being conveyed. Signs such as nodding may be used to reinforce verbal messages as a sign of being in agreement with the speaker (Wilkinson & Kitzinger, 2014). In the transcription from The Flash, Joe complements Iris’ kindness and hospitality and commends her for welcoming Barry into their home and making him feel at home by showing him around. Considering the context of this conversation, this complement helped Iris to view the world, not by the lens of the previous bad experiences, but by the good that came out of it. Iris is no longer perturbed, at least temporarily, by the traumatizing experiences that Barry had to go through as a child. Joe’s complement serves to lighten the otherwise sorrowful mood of the conversation by considering other aspects of the situation. Wilkinson and Kitzinger (2014) connote that complements usually vary depending on the gender involved in the conversation. In most cases, members of the female gender often give and receive complements to and from both males and females while men complement women more often, especially regarding their overall appearances, than they complement their fellow men.
The conversation structure is another aspect of the transcription. The basic unit of every conversation is the turn, which implies the shifts in the direction of the flow of the speech that is typical to ordinary conversations. Typically, speakers do not speak simultaneously but wait for their turn to speak. The speakers in the transcription give each other time to respond to the previous statements. Joe does not start talking until Iris has finished airing her views and vice versa. This right to speak in conversations is known as the floor, which is bestowed upon the next speaker in a turn. There are different turn talking mechanisms through which speakers allocate turns to each other, including natural breaks that occur when one pauses to breath, has nothing more to say, or explicitly declares the end of his or her contribution (Heritage, 2017). These natural points of transition can be seen in the conversation between Iris and Joe. For instance, in the second line, Joe only starts taking after Iris has asked a complete question. The latter only resumes taking after Joe has had his turn to respond. Further, the transcription indicates aspects of presequencing, whereby Iris starts off the conversation with an enquirer, which sets the course for the rest of the conversation. Indeed, what is said in every turn can start a conversation, maintain it, or end it. As such, a speaker is expected to make the listener understand and anticipate certain responses, or else, there would be no conversation. At the core of the turn-taking mechanisms is intersubjectivity, which denotes the ways through which the speakers’ state of knowledge, stances, intentions, and relations concerning the topic being discussed are developed, maintained, and conferred. As such, one’s understanding of the previous turn significantly influences the next turn. Gender differences emerge in numerous conversations, particularly concerning turn-taking rules. In conversations with rampant interruptions, men have a higher tendency of interrupting than men. The power and status relations between men and women typically favor men, who may take advantage of the situation to take the floor from other speakers to portray their conversational dominance, especially in public talks (Heritage, 2017). However, in private settings, such as in the conversation between Joe and Iris, the subject of the conversation is close family member and a friend. Such situations are typified by polite, casual, intimate, and friendly conversations in which the participants have equal social status and no power relations, thereby reducing the potential for interruptions.
The conversation between Joe and Iris also depicts aspects of politeness. Conversations usually involve two or more interlocutors stepping into each others’ comfort zones or grounds, which may be presumed to be s threat by the participants. Accordingly, speakers occasionally flout the cooperative maxims in an effort to respect others by being polite and unthreatening. Politeness strategies fall into two broad categories, positive and negative, which are essentially structured around the notion of face, whereby individuals consistently seek to claim for themselves. Positive politeness is aimed at avoiding being offensive by being friendly (Dowlatabadi, Mehri, & Tajabadi, 2014). Aspects in positive politeness in the transcript are depicted by Joe’s use of jargon and slang in the second line and the establishment of common ground in line four. Negative politeness, on the other hand, uses deference to avoid giving offense to others (Dowlatabadi, Mehri, & Tajabadi, 2014). Following Iris’ initial question, Joe seems to be unsure of how to respond or to hold a differing opinion. Instead, he chooses to present his disagreement as an opinion rather than responding offensively. Gender roles and expectations have an effect on the use of politeness in conversations. The power relations between men and women impose strict expectations on women, thereby compelling them to be polite at virtually all times while men may choose to be polite at will (Dowlatabadi, Mehri, & Tajabadi, 2014). However, this depends on the context of the conversation.
Iris: *So Nora would still be alive, and Henry would not be in prison?*
Joe: This is the area I’m guessing I’m now pretty much lost when it comes to the science. Any way you start tossing out phrases like Einstein-Rosen, bridge, ad time-space continuum and like (hh) duh (hhhh).
Iris: I still remember so clearly, and I thought you brought Barry home he thought something bad happened to his parents and that he was going to stay with us for a while
Joe: Yeah, I was not sure you were going to take it, but you were so kind. You helped him unpack, you showed him where everything was. /I’m so proud of you./
Dowlatabadi, H., Mehri, E., & Tajabadi, A. (2014). Politeness Strategies in Conversation Exchange: the case of Council for Dispute Settlement in Iran. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 98, 411-419.
Heritage, J. (2017). Conversation Analysis and Institutional Talk: Analyzing Distinctive Turn-Taking. Dialoganalyse VI/2: Referate der 6. Arbeitstagung, Prag 1996, 17, 3.
Wilkinson, S., & Kitzinger, C. (2014). Conversation analysis in language and gender studies. The handbook of language, gender and sexuality, 41-160.