Ethan Brightbill


Through short stories, poems, and a novella, this thesis explores two longstanding themes in my writing: existential anxiety and struggles for personal agency. While seemingly unrelated at first, these themes coalesce over the course of Return into a greater whole. One character’s despair and inertia is often separated from another’s agency and fulfillment by only the finest of margins, and as the reader advances through the collection, those boundaries break down. Influenced by the Tao Te Ching and the works of Ursula K. Le Guin, Return portrays progress through life not as a rejection of the past, but as a journey that completes itself.