Valeria Laken wrote her short story, Separate Kingdoms, with many things to tell her readers. The biggest purpose is undoubtedly to show how the family members interact with each other in different places. However, one other major purpose for writing this story is to show the difference between animals and humans. In particular, Valeria Laken wrote this to show how humans can virtually act like any other animals. Laken uses two-column strategy to talk about the behavior of Colt and Jack in the same period. In doing so, Laken helps the readers to distinguish the different behaviors between Colt and Jack. Laken uses the two-column strategy to show that Colt is not able to control his emotion, he is always alone in the dark, and he is only concerned with himself, whereas Jack is able to control his emotion, he likes to interact with other people, and he tries to understand the hardship that other people are going through. Then finally Laken hopes that the reader will realize that Colt acts like an animal as opposed to Jack who acts like a human.
The first example that shows the difference between Colt’s behavior and Jack’s behavior is when Sadie comes over to Jack’s basement to hang out with him. During that time, Colt and Colt’s wife were having an argument. When Sadie first comes over to Jack’s basement, Jack shows Sadie how to play the drums, then he says “it’s all under control, all exactly the way you want it. You’re the most perfectly tuned machine, dead on, precise” (Laken, 11). However, during that time Colt and his wife is having an argument, and Colt is not in his right mind. Not only that, he is not able to control his emotion nor can he really make a coherent argument against his wife. He is only able to make weird sounds such as “Squaaaaaaaaawk,” (laken, 10) or yell “Take it! Take the goddamn money and the little drummer boy and drive yourselves straight to paradise, set yourselves up! I’m fine right here.” Any person who is able to logical think knows that Colt’s wife is not obsessed with money but rather wants Colt to get money that he deserves and to avenge the company that hurt colt.
From these sections in two columns that are side by side, we see the difference between how Jack and Colt is. On one side, Jack is in complete control of himself. He is able to perfectly control the beat of the drums and is able to show Sadie a spectacular drum show. On the other hand, Colt is not able to control himself in any ways. He makes incoherent sound that resembles some animal, he yells at his wife even though his wife only intends for his best, and he cannot make a logical argument whether it is by his choice, or his inability to do so. In a sense, this shows the difference between humans and animals. One of the differences of humans and animals is the fact that humans are able to control their emotions and think logically, whereas animals are not able to do so and only act on their instinct and emotion.
The second example soon follows the first example in the story. Soon after Colt and his wife’s argument, Colt’s wife turns off the TV and take the remote with her. Then Colt is in the room alone, darkened by the absence of any sound or light. Then he says, “nine years on the night shift and they expect him to sleep in the dark now … and he’s alone now, drifting in his ranch house through the luminous, hollow sky” (Laken, 11). The first part of the quote reminds the reader of nocturnal animals, which is pretty much the best analogy that can be given seeing as Colt has worked the night shift for nine years, working and getting money for food. Nocturnal animals also run around at night looking for food. Then the second part of the quote shows that Colt is alone, like a predator in the woods alone at night. These two images are used often to describe a person or an animal in the dark forest at night.
Jack, however, is not alone. Jack is with Sadie listening to music. Not only that there is certain love in the air as “Sadie comes out of nowhere and kisses” Jack (Laken, 12). Also Jack himself explains that “She puts the iPod on my chest, and moves her hand to my rib cage, and it’s like we’re all one unit” (Laken 12). Contrary to Colt, Jack is interacting with other human with affection. When Colt is lonely, Jack is with someone else who loves him. From what happened to Jack it seems that both Jack and Sadie appreciate being with each other. Again, Colt and Jack can be analogous to a nocturnal animal and humans, and through this contrary using the two-column strategy, Laken intends to show how animals and humans differ.
The last example of Laken’s effective usage of two-column strategy to show the difference between Colt and Jack is at the very end of the story. When Colt goes outside to pee, he meets the lawyer who was at his house earlier. During the time that he pees outside and he has a conversation with the lawyer, Colt is able to think only about himself. When the lawyer tells Colt that he has a beautiful family, Colt responds “What’s that supposed to mean?” (Laken, 17). Colt then concludes that “He [The lawyer] thinks he understands, but he will never understand” (Laken, 18). When the lawyer tries to talk more, then he finally uses his one move that seemed to have worked so far: yelling out incoherent sounds. Finally, he yells out “I’m not one of you!” (Laken, 19). Colt does not change at all from the beginning. He makes incoherent sound from start of the story to the end. He separates himself from all the other people by concluding that no one will understand him, or saying he is not like the others. He does not care about his family. Even a dog or a cat will learn and progress much faster than him. This can only be concluded that he is as slow as any other animal at changing and learning if not worse.
On the other hand, Jack learns and tries to understand what the other people are going through. When Colt was peeing outside and yelling at the lawyer, Jack tells his mother that “Yesterday [he] tried to do everything all day without [his] thumbs” (Laken, 17). In the beginning of the story Jack hated Colt because he didn’t play XBOX with him and he was not able to say a single coherent sentence for a week. However, now he tries to understand what kind of hardship his father is going through. After that Jack and his mother tapes up their thumbs and try to make a cookie and learn how hard it is to not have a thumb in person. This is the major difference between Colt and Jack: Colt, because they act on their instinct only thinks for himself but Jack tries to understand how the other people are feeling and he is able to sympathize with them. Not only is it the difference between Colt and Jack but it is also the difference between animals and humans.
In many other parts of the stories, Laken suggests that Colt is regressing into an animal: i.e. the difference between animals and humans is opposable thumbs. Combining the subtle hints and these three differences between Colt and Jack, using the two-column strategy to effectively help the readers to notice, Laken hopes the readers to realize that every human can regress back into their ancestors – animals. Perhaps she wishes to tell all the readers that even in the hardest times, logical thinking and sympathies can really help. In the end, Jack’s part of the story really is a happy ending, but Colt’s part of the story ends like an existentialistic story filled with failure and discontent.