The Scheme of Story Analysis
1. Type of story Is it a science fiction/crime/love/psychological story?
2. A brief account of events (5 sentences)
3. Plot How are the events arranged?
What conflict is there at the core of the story?
What is the turning point?
Is the ending predictable/tidy/troubling/thought-provoking /surprising?
4. Setting Give examples of some elements and their function.
5. Narration Label the narrator and the effect created.
6. Description How effective is the author’s language?
Does the writer employ any figures of speech/emotive words? What effect do they create?
7. Characters Categorize the characters (major/minor/static/dynamic/complex /simple).
How does the author reveal what his characters are like? Is it through their statements and thoughts/the opinion of other characters/their actions/their names, environment, or does the author say directly what the characters are like?
Does the author employ implicit or explicit characterization?
Give examples of some personality traits attributable to the characters and provide evidence from the text.
8. Message Identify the theme of the story.
and theme Is it about love/friendship/parents’ love for their children/a person’s quest for happiness/bullying/sense of life/trials of life/ crime and punishment?
What is the central idea of the story?
What message does the author try to get across to the reader, in your opinion?
The author suggests that love can work wonders and people can change for the better when they are head over heels in love with somebody…
In telling the story, the writer hoped to drive home the thought that everybody has their own idea of happiness…
The writer communicates by this story the idea that parents' love for their children can be selfless and they always give their offspring a helping hand...
According to the story there are people who are shallow and narrow-minded because they react to appearances only. They react to the surface of things and people, not to their substance…
STORIES FOR INDEPENDENT READING
All Summer in a Day
“Do the scientists really know? Will it happen today, will it?”
“Look, look; see for yourself!”
The children pressed to each other like so many roses, so many weeds, intermixed, peering out for a look at the hidden sun.
It had been raining for seven years; thousands upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water, with the sweet crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands. A thousand forests had been crushed under the rain and grown up a thousand times to be crushed again. And this was the way life was forever on the planet Venus, and this was the schoolroom of the children of the rocket men and women who had come to a raining world to set up civilization and live out their lives.
“It’s stopping, it’s stopping!”
Margot stood apart from them, from these children who could never remember a time when there wasn’t rain and rain and rain. They were all nine years old, and if there had been a day, seven years ago, when the sun came out for an hour and showed its face to the stunned world, they could not recall. Sometimes, at night, she heard them stir, in remembrance, and she knew they were dreaming and remembering gold or a yellow crayon or a coin large enough to buy the world with. She knew they thought they remembered a warmness, like a blushing in the face, in the body, in the arms and legs and trembling hands. But then they always awoke to the tatting drum, the endless shaking down of clear bead necklaces upon the roof, the walk, the gardens, the forests, and their dreams were gone.
All day yesterday they had read in class, about the sun. About how like a lemon it was, and how hot. And they had written small stories or essays or poems about it:
I think the sun is a flower,
That blooms for just one hour.
That was Margot’s poem, read in a quiet voice in the still classroom while the rain was falling outside.
“Aw, you didn’t write that!” protested one of the boys.
“I did,” said Margot “I did.”
“William!” said the teacher.
But that was yesterday. Now the rain was slackening, and the children were crushed in the great thick windows.
“She’ll be back.”
“She’d better hurry, we’ll miss it!”
They turned on themselves, like a feverish wheel, all tumbling spokes.
Margot stood alone. She was a very frail girl who looked as if she had been lost in the rain for years and the rain had washed out the blue from her eyes and the red from her mouth and the yellow from her hair. She was an old photograph dusted from an album, whitened away, and if she spoke at all her voice would be a ghost. Now she stood, separate, staring at the rain and the loud wet world beyond the huge glass.
“What’re you looking at?” said William.
Margot said nothing.
“Speak when you’re spoken to.” He gave her a shove. But she did not move; rather she let herself be moved only by him and nothing else.
They edged away from her, they would not look at her. She felt them go away. And this was because she would play no games with them in the echoing tunnels of the underground city. If they tagged her and ran, she stood blinking after them and did not follow. When the class sang songs about happiness and life and games her lips barely moved. Only when they sang about the sun and the summer did her lips move as she watched the drenched windows.
And then, of course, the biggest crime of all was that she had come here only five years ago from Earth, and she remembered the sun and the way the sun was and the sky was when she was four in Ohio. And they, they had been on Venus all their lives, and they had been only two years old when last the sun came out and had long since forgotten the color and heat of it and the way it really was. But Margot remembered.
“It’s like a penny,” she said once, eyes closed.
“No it’s not!” the children cried.
“It’s like a fire,” she said, “in the stove.”
“You’re lying, you don’t remember!” cried the children.
But she remembered and stood quietly apart from all of them and watched the patterning windows. And once, a month ago, she had refused to shower in the school shower rooms, had clutched her hands to her ears and over her head, screaming the water mustn’t touch her head. So after that, dimly, dimly, she sensed it, she was different and they knew her difference and kept away.
There was talk that her father and mother were taking her back to Earth next year; it seemed vital to her that they do so, though it would mean the loss of thousands of dollars to her family. And so, the children hated her for all these reasons of big and little consequence. They hated her pale snow face, her waiting silence, her thinness, and her possible future.
“Get away!” The boy gave her another push. “What are you waiting for?”
Then, for the first time, she turned and looked at him. And what she was waiting for was in her eyes.
“Well, don’t wait around here!” cried the boy savagely. “You won’t see nothing!”
Her lips moved.
“Nothing!” he cried. “It was all a joke, wasn’t it?” He turned to the other children. “Nothing’s happening today, is it?”
They all blinked at him and then, understanding, laughed and shook their heads. “Nothing, nothing!”
“Oh, but,” Margot whispered, her eyes helpless. “But this is the day, the scientists predict, they say, they know the sun...”
“All a joke!” said the boy, and seized her roughly. “Hey, everyone, let’s put her in a closet before teacher comes!”
“No,” said Margot, falling back. They surged about her, caught her up and bore her protesting, and then pleading, and then crying, back into a tunnel, a room, a closet, where they slammed and locked door. They stood looking at the door and saw it tremble from her beating and throwing herself against it. They heard her muffled cries. Then, smiling, they turned and went out and back down the tunnel, just as the teacher arrived.
“Ready, children?” She glanced at her watch.
“Yes!” said everyone.
“Are we all here?”
The rain slackened still more.
They crowded to the huge door.
The rain stopped.
It was as if, in the midst of a film concerning an avalanche, a tornado, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption something had, first, gone wrong with the sound apparatus, thus muffling and finally cutting off all noise, all of the blasts and repercussions and thunders, and then, second, ripped the film from the projector and inserted in its place a peaceful tropical slide which did not move or tremor. The world ground to a standstill. The silence was so immense and unbelievable that you felt your ears had been stuffed or you had lost your hearing altogether. The children put their hands to their ears. They stood apart. The door slid back and the smell of the silent, waiting world came in to them.
The sun came out.
It was the color of flaming bronze and it was very large. And the sky around it was a blazing blue tile color.
And the jungle burned with sunlight as the children, released from their spell, rushed out, yelling, into the springtime.
“Now, don’t go too far,” called the teacher after them. “You’ve only two hours, you know. You wouldn’t want to get caught out!”
But they were running and turning their faces up to the sky and feeling the sun on their cheeks like a warm iron; they were taking off their jackets and letting the sun burn their arms.
“Oh, it’s better than the sun lamps, isn’t it?”
“Much, much better!”
They stopped running and stood in the great jungle that covered Venus, that grew and never stopped growing, tumultuously, even as you watched it. It was a nest of octopi, clustering up great arms of fleshlike weed, wavering, flowering in this brief spring. It was the color of rubber and ash, this jungle, from the many years without sun. It was the color of stones and white cheeses and ink, and it was the color of the moon.
The children lay out, laughing, on the jungle mattress, and heard it sigh and squeak under them, resilient and alive. They ran among the trees, they slipped and fell, they pushed each other, they played hide-and-seek and tag, but most of all they squinted at the sun until tears down their faces, they put their hands up to that yellowness and that amazing blueness and they breathed of the fresh, fresh air and listened and listened to the silence which suspended them in a blessed sea of no sound and no motion. They looked at everything and savored everything. Then, wildly, like animals escaped from their caves, they ran and ran in shouting circles. They ran for an hour and did not stop running.
And then —
In the midst of their running one of the girls wailed.
The girl, standing in the open, held out her hand.
“Oh, look, look,” she said, trembling.
They came slowly to look at her opened palm.
In the center of it, cupped and huge, was a single rain drop. She began to cry, looking at it. They glanced quietly at the sky.
A few cold drops fell on their noses and their cheeks and their mouths. The sun faded behind a stir of mist. A wind blew cool around them. They turned and started to walk back toward the underground house, their hands at their sides, their smiles vanishing away.
A boom of thunder startled them and like leaves before a new hurricane, they tumbled upon each other and ran. Lightning struck ten miles away, five miles away, a mile, a half mile. The sky darkened into midnight in a flash.
They stood in the doorway of the underground for a moment until it was raining hard. Then they closed the door and heard the gigantic sound of the rain falling in tons and avalanches, everywhere and forever.
“Will it be seven more years?”
Then one of them gave a little cry.
“She’s still in the closet where we locked her.”
They stood as if someone had driven them, like so many stakes, into the floor. They looked at each other and then looked away. They glanced out at the world that was raining now and raining and raining steadily. They could not meet each other’s glances. Their faces were solemn and pale. They looked at their hands and feet, their faces down.
One of the girls said, “Well…?”
No one moved.
“Go on,” whispered the girl.
They walked slowly down the hall in the sound of cold rain. They turned through the doorway to the room in the sound of the storm and thunder, lightning on their faces, blue and terrible. They walked over to the closet door slowly and stood by it.
Behind the closet door was only silence.
They unlocked the door, even more slowly, and let Margot out.
1. Consider the setting of the story. Does it help to identify the genre of the short story?
2. Dwell on the descriptions of the nature and the weather on the planet Venus. Analyze the emotional colouring of the words employed for this purpose, interpret the means of expressiveness you are able to identify. What atmosphere does the author create through such descriptions?
3. Examine the way the characters are presented; pay attention to the choice of words, their connotations, the structure of the sentences. What attitude to the main character does the author establish?
4. Define the key of the story. Give your reasoning.
5. Outline the basic conflict and the themes of the story. What is the message the author tries to get across?
Just Good Friends
I woke up before him feeling slightly randy but I knew there was nothing I could do about it.
I blinked and my eyes immediately accustomed themselves to the half light. I raised my head and gazed at the large expanse of motionless white flesh lying next to me. If only he took as much exercise as I did he wouldn’t have that spare tyre, I thought unsympathetically.
Roger stirred restlessly and even turned over to face me, but I knew he would not be fully awake until the alarm on his side of the bed started ringing. I pondered for a moment whether I could go back to sleep again or should get up and find myself some breakfast before he woke. In the end I settled for just lying still on my side day-dreaming, but making sure I didn’t disturb him. When he did eventually open his eyes I planned to pretend I was still asleep — that way he would end up getting breakfast for me. I began to go over the things that needed to be done after he had left for the office. As long as I was at home ready to greet him when he returned from his work, he didn’t seem to mind what I got up to during the day.
A gentle rumble emanated from his side of the bed. Roger’s snoring never disturbed me. My affection for him was unbounded, and I only wished I could find the words to let him know. In truth, he was the first man I had really appreciated. As I gazed at his unshaven face I was reminded that it hadn’t been his looks which had attracted me in the pub that night.
I had first come across Roger in the Cat and Whistle, a pub situated on the corner of Mafeking Road. You might say it was our local. He used to come in around eight, order a pint of mild and take it to a small table in the corner of the room just beyond the dartboard. Mostly he would sit alone, watching the darts being thrown towards double top but more often settling in one or five, if they managed to land on the board at all. He never played the game himself, and I often wondered, from my vantage point behind the bar, if he were fearful of relinquishing his favourite seat or just had no interest in the sport.
Then things suddenly changed for Roger — for the better, was no doubt how he saw it — when one evening in early spring a blonde named Madeleine, wearing an imitation fur coat and drinking double gin and its, perched on the stool beside him. I had never seen her in the pub before but she was obviously known locally, and loose bar talk led me to believe it couldn’t last. You see, word was about that she was looking for someone whose horizons stretched beyond the Cat and Whistle.
In fact the affair — if that’s what it ever came to — lasted for only twenty days. I know because I counted every one of them. Then one night voices were raised and heads turned as she left the small stool just as suddenly as she had come. His tired eyes watched her walk to a vacant place at the corner of the bar, but he didn’t show any surprise at her departure and made no attempt to pursue her.
Her exit was my cue to enter. I almost leapt from behind the bar and, moving as quickly as dignity allowed, was seconds later sitting on the vacant stool beside him. He didn’t comment and certainly made no attempt to offer me a drink, but the one glance he shot in my direction did not suggest he found me an unacceptable replacement. I looked around to see if anyone else had plans to usurp my position. The men standing round the dartboard didn’t seem to care. Treble seventeen, twelve and a five kept them more than occupied. I glanced towards the bar to check if the boss had noticed my absence, but he was busy taking orders. I saw Madeleine was already sipping a glass of champagne from the pub’s only bottle, purchased by a stranger whose stylish double-breasted blazer and striped bow tie convinced me she wouldn’t be bothering with Roger any longer. She looked well set for at least another twenty days.
I looked up at Roger — I had known his name for some time, although I have never addressed him as such and I couldn’t be sure that he was aware of mine. I began to flutter my eyelashes in a rather exaggerated way. I felt a little stupid but at least it elicited a gentle smile. He leaned over and touched my cheek, his hands surprisingly gentle. Neither of us felt the need to speak. We were both lonely and it seemed unnecessary to explain why. We sat in silence, he occasionally sipping his beer, I from time to time rearranging my legs, while a few feet from us the darts pursued their undetermined course.
When the publican cried, “Last orders,” Roger downed the remains of his beer while the dart players completed what had to be their final game.
No one commented when we left together and I was surprised that Roger made no protest as I accompanied him back to his little semi-detached. I already knew exactly where he lived because I had seen him on several occasions standing at the bus queue in Dobson Street in a silent line of reluctant morning passengers. Once I even positioned myself on a nearby wall in order to study his features more carefully. It was an anonymous, almost commonplace face but he had the warmest eyes and the kindest smile I had observed in any man.
My only anxiety was that he didn’t seem aware of my existence, just constantly preoccupied, his eyes each evening and his thoughts each morning only for Madeleine. How I envied that girl. She had everything I wanted — except a decent fur coat, the only thing my mother had left me. In truth, I have no right to be catty about Madeleine, as her past couldn’t have been more murky than mine.
All that had taken place well over a year ago and, to prove my total devotion to Roger, I have never entered the Cat and Whistle since. He seems to have forgotten Madeleine because he never once spoke of her in front of me. An unusual man, he didn’t question me about any of the relationships either.
Perhaps he should have. I would have liked him to know the truth about my life before we’d met, though it all seems irrelevant now. You see, I had been the youngest in a family of four so I always came last in line. I had never known my father, and I came home one night to discover that my mother had run off with another man. Tracy, one of my sisters, warned me not to expect her back. She turned out to be right, for I have never seen my mother since that day. It’s awful to have to admit, if only to oneself, that one’s mother is a tramp.
Now an orphan, I began to drift, often trying to stay one step ahead of the law — not so easy when you haven’t always got somewhere to put your head down. I can’t even recall how I ended up with Derek — if that was his real name. Derek, whose dark sensual looks would have attracted any susceptible female, told me that he had been on a merchant steamer for the past three years. When he made love to me I was ready to believe anything. I explained to him that all I wanted was a warm home, regular food and perhaps in time a family of my own. He ensured that one of my wishes was fulfilled, because a few weeks after he left me I ended up with twins, two girls. Derek never set eyes on them: he had returned to sea even before I could tell him I was pregnant. He hadn’t needed to promise me the earth; he was so good-looking he must have known I would have been his just for a night on the tiles.
I tried to bring up the girls decently, but the authorities caught up with me this time and I lost them both. I wonder where they are now? God knows. I only hope they’ve ended up in a good home. At least they inherited Derek’s irresistible looks, which can only help them through life. It’s just one more thing Roger will never know about. His unquestioning trust only makes me feel more guilty, and now I never seem able to find a way of letting him know the truth.
After Derek had gone back to sea I was on my own for almost a year before getting part-time work at the Cat and Whistle. The publican was so mean that he wouldn’t have even provided food and drink for me, if I hadn’t kept to my part of the bargain.
Roger used to come in about once, perhaps twice a week before he met the blonde with the shabby fur coat. After that it was every night until she upped and left him.
I knew he was perfect for me the first time I heard him order a pint of mild. A pint of mild — I can’t think of a better description of Roger. In those early days the barmaids used to flirt openly with him, but he didn’t show any interest.
I think I must have been the only one in that pub who was looking for something more permanent. And so Roger allowed me to spend the night with him. I remember that he slipped into the bathroom to undress while I rested on what I assumed would be my side of the bed. Since that night he has never once asked me to leave, let alone tried to kick me out. It’s an easy-going relationship. I’ve never known him raise his voice or scold me unfairly. Forgive the cliché, but for once I have fallen on my feet.
Brr. Brr. Brr. That damned alarm. I wished I could have buried it. The noise would go on and on until at last Roger decided to stir himself. I once tried to stretch across him and put a stop to its infernal ringing, only ending up knocking the contraption on the floor, which annoyed him even more than the ringing. Never again, I concluded. Eventually a long arm emerged from under the blanket and a palm dropped on to the top of the clock and the awful din subsided. I’m a light sleeper — the slightest movement stirs me. If only he had asked me I could have woken him far more gently each morning. After all, my methods are every bit as reliable as any man-made contraption.
Half awake, Roger gave me a brief cuddle before kneading my back, always guaranteed to elicit a smile. Then he yawned, stretched and declared as he did every morning, “Must hurry along or I’ll be late for the office.” I suppose some females would have been annoyed by the predictability of our morning routine — but not this lady. It was all part of a life that made me feel secure in the belief that at last I had found something worthwhile.
Roger managed to get his feet into the wrong slippers — always a fifty-fifty chance — before lumbering towards the bathroom. He emerged fifteen minutes later, as he always did, looking only slightly better than he had when he entered. I’ve learned to live with what some would have called his foibles, while he has learned to accept my mania for cleanliness and a need to feel secure.
“Get up, lazy-bones,” he remonstrated but then only smiled when I re-settled myself, refusing to leave the warm hollow that had been left by his body.
“I suppose you expect me to get your breakfast before I go to work?” he added as he made his way downstairs. I didn’t bother to reply. I knew that in a few moments’ time he would be opening the front door, picking up the morning newspaper, any mail, and our regular pint of milk. Reliable as ever, he would put on the kettle, then head for the pantry, fill a bowl with my favourite breakfast food and add my portion of the milk, leaving himself just enough for two cups of coffee.
I could anticipate almost to the second when breakfast would be ready. First I would hear the kettle boil, a few moments later the milk would be poured, then finally there would be the sound of a chair being pulled up. That was the signal I needed to confirm it was time for me to join him.
I stretched my legs slowly, noticing my nails needed some attention. I had already decided against a proper wash until after he had left for the office. I could hear the sound of the chair being scraped along the kitchen lino. I felt so happy that I literally jumped off the bed before making my way towards the open door. A few seconds later I was downstairs. Although he had already taken his first mouthful of cornflakes he stopped eating the moment he saw me.
“Good of you to join me,” he said, a grin spreading over his face.
I padded over towards him and looked up expectantly. He bent down and pushed my bowl towards me. I began to lap up the milk happily, my tail swishing from side to side.
It’s a myth that we only swish our tails when we’re angry.
1. State the forms of presentation and the type of narration employed.
2. Why do you think dialogue as a form of presentation is absent from the story?
3. What is the climactic point of the story? Why do you think so?
4. Accumulate the information about the protagonist’s past life and present occupation. Compare your idea of the narrator at the beginning and at the end of the story.
5. How can the personality of the narrator in this case help to define the genre of the short story and its main idea?
She waved at me across a crowded room of the St. Regis Hotel in New York. I waved back realising I knew the face but I was unable to place it. She squeezed past waiters and guests and had reached me before I had a chance to ask anyone who she was. I racked that section of my brain which is meant to store people, but it transmitted no reply. I realised I would have to resort to the old party trick of carefully worded questions until her answers jogged my memory.
“How are you, my darling?” she cried, and threw her arms around me, an opening that didn’t help as we were at a Literary Guild cocktail party, and anyone will throw their arms around you on such occasions, even the directors of the Book-of-the-Month Club. From her accent she was clearly American and looked to be approaching forty, but thanks to the genius of modern make-up might even have overtaken it. She wore a long white cocktail dress and her blonde hair was done up in one of those buns that looks like a cottage loaf. The overall effect made her appear somewhat like a chess queen. Not that the cottage loaf helped because she might have had dark hair flowing to her shoulders when we last met. I do wish women would realise that when they change their hair style they often achieve exactly what they set out to do: look completely different to any unsuspecting male.
“I’m well, thank you,” I said to the white queen. “And you?” I inquired as my opening gambit.
“I’m just fine, darling,” she replied, taking a glass of champagne from a passing waiter.
“And how’s the family?” I asked, not sure if she even had one.
“They’re all well,” she replied. No help there. “And how is Louise?” she inquired.
“Blooming,” I said. So she knew my wife. But then not necessarily, I thought. Most American women are experts at remembering the names of men’s wives. They have to be, when on the New York circuit they change so often it becomes a greater challenge than The Times crossword.
“Have you been to London lately?” I roared above the babble. A brave question, as she might never have been to Europe.
“Only once since we had lunch together.” She looked at me quizzically. “You don’t remember who I am, do you?” she asked as she devoured a cocktail sausage.
“Don’t be silly, Susan,” I said. “How could I ever forget?”
I confess that I remembered the white queen’s name in the nick of time. Although I still had only vague recollections of the lady, I certainly would never forget the lunch.
I had just had my first book published and the critics on both sides of the Atlantic had been complimentary, even if the cheques from my publishers were less so. My agent had told me on several occasions that I shouldn’t write if I wanted to make money. This created a dilemma because I couldn’t see how to make money if I didn’t write.
It was around this time that the lady, who was now facing me and chattering on oblivious to my silence, telephoned from New York to heap lavish praise on my novel. There is no writer who does not enjoy receiving such calls, although I confess to having been less than captivated by an eleven-year-old girl who called me collect from California to say she had found a spelling mistake on page forty-seven and warned me she would ring again if she discovered another. However, this particular lady might have ended her transatlantic congratulations with nothing more than goodbye if she had not dropped her own name. It was one of those names that can, on the spur of the moment, always book a table at a chic restaurant or a seat at the opera which mere mortals like myself would have found impossible to achieve given a month’s notice. To be fair, it was her husband’s name that had achieved the reputation, as one of the world’s most distinguished film producers.
“When I’m next in London you must have lunch with me,” came crackling down the phone.
“No,” said I gallantly, “you must have lunch with me.”
“How perfectly charming you English always are,” she said.
I have often wondered how much American women get away with when they say those few words to an Englishman. Nevertheless, the wife of an Oscar-winning producer does not phone one every day.
“I promise to call you when I’m next in London,” she said.
And indeed she did, for almost six months to the day she telephoned again, this time from the Connaught Hotel to declare how much she was looking forward to our meeting.
“Where would you like to have lunch?” I said, realising a second too late, when she replied with the name of one of the most exclusive restaurants in town, that I should have made sure it was I who choose the venue. I was glad she couldn’t see my forlorn face as she added with unabashed liberation:
“Monday, one o’clock. Leave the booking to me — I’m known there.”
On the day in question I donned my one respectable suit, a new shirt which I had been saving for a special occasion since Christmas, and the only tie that looked as if it hadn’t previously been used to hold up my trousers. I then strolled over to my bank and asked for a statement of my current account. The teller handed me a long piece of paper unworthy of its amount. I studied the figure as one who has to take a major financial decision. The bottom line stated in black lettering that I was in credit to the sum of thirty-seven pounds and sixty-three pence. I wrote out a cheque for thirty-seven pounds. I feel that a gentleman should always leave his account in credit, and I might add it was a belief that my bank manager shared with me. I then walked up to Mayfair for my luncheon date.
As I entered the restaurant I observed too many waiters and plush seats for my liking. You can’t eat either, but you can be charged for them. At a corner table for two sat a woman who, although not young, was elegant. She wore a blouse of powder blue crepe-de-chine, and her blonde hair was rolled away from her face in a style that reminded me of the war years, and had once again become fashionable. It was clearly my transatlantic admirer, and she greeted me in the same “I’ve known you all my life” fashion as she was to do at the Literary Guild cocktail party years later. Although she had a drink in front of her I didn’t order an aperitif, explaining that I never drank before lunch — and would like to have added, “but as soon as your husband makes a film of my novel, I will.”
She launched immediately into the latest Hollywood gossip, not so much dropping names as reciting them, while I ate my way through the crisps from the bowl in front of me. A few minutes later a waiter materialised by the table and presented us with two large embossed leather menus, considerably better bound than my novel. The place positively reeked of unnecessary expense. I opened the menu and studied the first chapter with horror; it was eminently putdownable. I had no idea that simple food obtained from Govern Garden that morning could cost quite so much by merely being transported to Mayfair. I could have bought her the same dishes for a quarter of the price at my favourite bistro, a mere one hundred yards away, and to add to my discomfort I observed that it was one of those restaurants where the guest’s menu made no mention of the prices. I settled down to study the long list of French dishes which only served to remind me that I hadn’t eaten well for over a month, a state of affairs that was about to be prolonged by a further day. Iremembered my bank balance and morosely reflected that I would probably have to wait until my agent sold the Icelandic rights of my novel before I could afford a square meal again.
“What would you like?” I said gallantly.
“I always enjoy a light lunch,” she volunteered. I sighed with premature relief, only to find that light did not necessarily mean “inexpensive”.
She smiled sweetly up at the waiter, who looked as if he wouldn’t bewondering where his next meal might be coming from, and ordered just a sliver of smoked salmon, followed by two tiny tender lamb cutlets. Then she hesitated, but only for a moment, before adding “and a side salad”.
I studied the menu with some caution, running my finger down the prices, not the dishes.
“I also eat lightly at lunch” I said mendaciously. “The chefs salad will be quite enough for me.” The waiter was obviously affronted but left peaceably.
She chatted of Coppola and Preminger, of Al Pacino and Robert Redford, and of Greta Garbo as if she saw her all the time. She was kind enough to stop for a moment and ask what I was working on at present, I would like to have replied — on how I was to explain to my wife that I only have sixty-three pence left in the bank; whereas I actually discussed my ideas for another novel. She seemed impressed, but still made no reference to her husband. Should I mention him? No. Mustn’t sound pushy, or as though I needed the money.
The food arrived, or that is to say her smoked salmon did, I sat silently watching her eat my bank account while I nibbled a roll. I looked up only to discover a wine waiter hovering by my side.
“Would you care for some wine?” said I, recklessly.
“No, I don’t think so,” she said. I smiled a little too soon: “Well, perhaps a little something white and dry.”
The wine waiter handed over a second leather-bound book, this time with golden grapes embossed on the cover. I searched down the pages for half bottles, explaining to my guest I never drank at lunch, I chose the cheapest. The wine waiter reappeared a moment later with a large silver salver full of ice in which the half bottle looked drowned, and, like me, completely out of its depth. A junior waiter cleared away the empty plate while another wheeled a large trolley to the side of our table and served the lamb cutlets and the chefs salad. At the same time a third waiter made up an exquisite side salad for my guest which ended up bigger than my complete order. I didn’t feel I could ask her to swap.
To be fair, the chef’s salad was super — although I confess it was hard to appreciate such food fully while trying to work out a plot that would be convincing if I found the bill came to over thirty-seven pounds.
“How silly of me to ask for white wine with lamb,” she said, having nearly finished the half bottle, ordered a half bottle of the house red without calling for the wine list. She finished the white wine and then launched into the theatre, music and other authors. All those who were still alive she seemed to know and those who were dead she hadn’t read. I might have enjoyed the performance if it hadn’t been for the fear of wondering if I would be able to afford it when the curtain came down. When the waiter cleared away the empty dishes he asked my guest if she would care for anything else.
“No, thank you,” she said — I nearly applauded. “Unless you have one of your famous apple surprises.”
“I fear the last one may have gone, madam, but I’ll go and see.” Don’t hurry, I wanted to say, but instead I just smiled as the rope tightened around my neck. A few moments later the waiter strode back in triumph weaving between the tables holding the apple surprise, in the palm of his hand, high above his head. I prayed to Newton that the apple would obey his law. It didn’t.
“The last one, madam.”
“Oh, what luck,” she declared.
“Oh, what luck,” I repeated, unable to face the menu and discover the price. I was now attempting some mental arithmetic as I realised it was going to be a close run thing.
“Anything else, madam?” the ingratiating waiter inquired.
I took a deep breath.
“Just coffee,” she said.
“And for you, Sir?”
“No, no, not for me.” He left us. I couldn’t think of an explanation for why I didn’t drink coffee.
She then produced from the large Gucci bag by her side a copy of my novel, which I signed with a flourish, hoping the head waiter would see me and feel I was the sort of man who should be allowed to sign the bill as well, but he resolutely remained at the far end of the room while I wrote the words “An unforgettable meeting” and appended my signature.
While the dear lady was drinking her coffee I picked at another roll and called for the bill, not because I was in any particular hurry, but like a guilty defendant at the Old Bailey I preferred to wait no longer for the judge’s sentence. A man in a smart green uniform, whom I had never seen before, appeared carrying a silver tray with a of paper on it not unlike my bank statement. Ipushed back the edge of the check slowly and read the figure: thirty-six pounds and forty pence. I casually put my hand into my inside pocket and withdrew my life’s possessions and then placed the crisp new notes on the silver tray. They were whisked away. The man in the green uniform returned a few moments later with my sixty pence change, which I pocketed as it was the only way I was going to get a bus home. The waiter me a look that would: have undoubtedly won him a character part in any film produced by the lady’s distinguished husband.
My guest rose and walked across the restaurant, waving at, and occasionally kissing people that I had previously only seen in glossy magazines. When she reached the door she stopped to retrieve her coat, a mink. I helped her on with the fur, again failing to leave a tip. As we stood on the Curzon Street pavement, a dark blue Rolls-Royce drew up beside us and a liveried chauffeur leaped out and opened the rear door. She climbed in.
“Goodbye, darling,” she said, as the electric window slid down. “Thank you for such a lovely lunch.”
“Goodbye,” I said, and summoning up my courage added: “I do hope when you are next in town I shall have the opportunity of meeting your distinguished husband.”
“Oh, darling, didn’t you know?” she said as she looked out from the Rolls-Royce.
“We were divorced ages ago.”
“Divorced!” said I.
“Oh, yes,” she said gaily, “I haven’t spoken to him for years.”
I just stood there looking helpless.
“Oh, don’t worry yourself on my account,” she said. “He’s no loss. In any case I have recently married again,” — another film producer, I prayed. — “In fact, I quite expected to bump into my husband today — you see, he owns the restaurant.”
Without another word the electric window purred up and the Rolls-Royce glided effortlessly out of sight leaving me to walk to the nearest bus stop. As I stood surrounded by Literary Guild guests, staring at the white queen with the cottage loaf bun, I could still see her drifting away in that blue Rolls-Royce. I tried to concentrate on her words.
“I knew you wouldn’t forget me, darling” she was saying. “After all, I did take you to lunch, didn’t I?”
1. Regard the plot-structure of the story. Which techniques have been employed to make it complex?
2. Define the forms of presentation. Is description as a form of presentation essential in the story?
3. Why does the author indulge in great detail while describing the setting (the interior of the restaurant, some objects and things, the clothes of the characters, etc.)? What effect does such detailed description produce?
4. Analyze Susan’s speech, manners and behaviour. What sort of person does she seem to you?
5. What is the central idea of the story?
The Case for the Defence
It was the strangest murder trial I ever attended. They named it the Peckham murder in the headlines, though Northwood Street, where the old woman was found battered to death, was not strictly speaking in Peckham. This was not one of those cases of circumstantial evidence in which you feel the jurymen’s anxiety — because mistakes have been made — like domes of silence muting the court. No, this murderer was all but found with the body: no one present when the Crown counsel outlined his case believed that the man in the dock stood any chance at all.
He was a heavy stout man with bulging bloodshot eyes. All his muscles seemed to be in his thighs. Yes, an ugly customer, one you wouldn’t forget in a hurry — and that was an important point because the Crown proposed to call four witnesses who hadn’t forgotten him, who had seen him hurrying away from the little red villa in Northwood Street. The clock had just struck two in the morning.
Mrs. Salmon in 15 Northwood Street had been unable to sleep: she heard a door click shut and thought it was her own gate. So she went to the window and saw Adams (that was his name) on the steps of Mrs. Parker’s house. He had just come out and he was wearing gloves. He had a hammer in his hand and she saw him drop it into the laurel bushes by the front gate. But before he moved away, he had looked up — at her window. The fatal instinct that tells a man when he is watched exposed him in the light of a street-lamp to her gaze — his eyes suffused with horrifying and brutal fear, like an animal’s when you raise a whip. I talked afterwards to Mrs. Salmon, who naturally after the astonishing verdict went in fear herself. As I imagine did all the witnesses — Henry MacDougall, who had been driving home from Benfleet late and nearly ran Adams down at the corner of Northwood Street. Adams was walking in the middle of the road looking dazed. And old Mr. Wheeler, who lived next door to Mrs. Parker, at No. 12, and was wakened by a noise — like a chair falling — through the thin-as-paper villa wall, and got up and looked out of the window, just as Mrs. Salmon had done, saw Adams’s back and, as he turned, those bulging eyes. In Laurel Avenue he had been seen by yet another witnes — his luck was badly out; he might as well have committed the crime in broad daylight.
“I understand,” counsel said, “that the defence proposes to plead mistaken identity. Adams’s wife will tell you that he was with her at two in the morning on February 14, but after you have heard the witnesses for the Crown and examined carefully the features of the prisoner, I do not think you will be prepared to admit the possibility of a mistake.”
It was all over, you would have said, but the hanging.
After the formal evidence had been given by the policeman who had found the body and the surgeon who examined it, Mrs. Salmon was called. She was the ideal witness, with her slight Scotch accent and her expression of honesty, care and kindness.
The counsel for the Crown brought the story gently out. She spoke very firmly. There was no malice in her, and no sense of importance at standing there in the Central Criminal Court with a judge in scarlet hanging on her words and the reporters writing them down. Yes, she said, and then she had gone downstairs and rung up the police station.
“And do you see the man here in court?”
She looked straight at the big man in the dock, whostared hard at her with his pekingese eyes without emotion.
“Yes,” she said, “there he is.”
“You are quite certain?”
She said simply, “I couldn’t be mistaken, sir.”
It was all as easy as that.
“Thank you, Mrs. Salmon.”
Counsel for the defence rose to cross-examine. If you had reported as many murder trials as I have, you would have known beforehand what line he would take. And I was right, up to a point.
“Now, Mrs. Salmon, you must remember that a man’s life may depend on your evidence.”
“I do remember it, sir.”
“Is your eyesight good?”
“I have never had to wear spectacles, sir.”
“You are a woman of fifty-five?”
“And the man you saw was on the other side of the road?”
“And it was two o’clock in the morning. You must have remarkable eyes, Mrs. Salmon?”
“No, sir. There was moonlight, and when the man looked up he had the lamplight on his face.”
“And you have no doubt whatever that the man you saw is the prisoner?”
I couldn’t make out what he was at. He couldn’t have expected any other answer than the one he got.
“None whatever, sir. It isn’t a face one forgets.”
Counsel took a look round the court for a moment. Then he said, “Do you mind, Mrs. Salmon, examining again the people in court? No, not the prisoner. Stand up, please, Mr. Adams,” and there at the back of the court with thick stout body and muscular legs and a pair of bulging eyes, was the exact image of the man in the dock. He was even dressed the same — tight blue suit and striped tie.
“Now think very carefully, Mrs. Salmon. Can you still swear that the man you saw drop the hammer in Mrs. Parker’s garden was the prisoner — and not this man, who is his twin brother?”
Of course she couldn’t. She looked from one to the other and didn’t say a word.
There the big brute sat in the dock with his legs crossed, and there he stood too at the back of the court and they both stared at Mrs. Salmon. She shook her head.
What we saw then was the end of the case. There wasn’t a witness prepared to swear that it was the prisoner he’d seen. And the brother? He had his alibi, too; he was with his wife.
And so the man was acquitted for lack of evidence. But whether — if he did the murder and not his brother — he was punished or not, I don’t know. That extraordinary day had an extraordinary end. I followed Mrs. Salmon out of court and we got wedged in the crowd who were waiting, of course, for the twins. The police tried to drive the crowd away, but all they could do was keep the road-way clear for traffic. I learned later that they tried to get the twins to leave by a back way, but they wouldn’t. One of them — no one knew which — said, “I’ve been acquitted, haven’t I?” and they walked bang out of the front entrance. Then it happened. I don’t know how, though I was only six feet away. The crowd moved and somehow one of the twins got pushed on to the road right in front of a bus.
He gave a squeal like a rabbit and that was all; he was dead, his skull smashed just as Mrs. Parker’s had been. Divine vengeance? I wish I knew. There was the other Adams getting on his feet from beside the body and looking straight over at Mrs. Salmon. He was crying, but whether he was the murderer or the innocent man nobody will ever be able to tell. But if you were Mrs. Salmon, could you sleep at night?
1. Define the forms of presentation within the story. Who is the narrator? What effect does the chosen point of view produce?
2. Is description as a form of presentation vital in the story? Does the description of the criminal’s appearance result in characterization? Does the author create a sympathetic character? Go back to the text and support your opinion.
3. Dwell on other characters’ actions and decisions. Do you approve of the defence lawyer’s course of action? Why do you think Mrs. Salmon changed her evidence?
4. Look through the story and find points in the text which create a sense of anticipation and maintain suspense.
5. What is the tensest moment of the story? What impression did the accident produce on the narrator? And on the reader? Why did the author choose such an ending, in your opinion? How is it connected with the story’s themes and ideas? Explain.
My Son the Murderer
He wakes feeling his father is in the hallway, listening. He listens to him sleep and dream. Listening to him get up and fumble for his pants. He won’t put on his shoes. To him not going to the kitchen to eat. Staring with shut eyes in the mirror. Sitting an hour on the toilet. Flipping the pages of a book he can’t read. To his anguish, loneliness. The father stands in the hall. The son hears him listen.
My son the stranger, he won’t tell me anything.
I open the door and see my father in the hall. Why are you standing there, why don’t you go to work?
On account of I took my vacation in the winter instead of the summer like I usually do.
What the hell for if you spend it in this dark smelly hallway, watching my every move? Guessing what you can’t see. Why are you always spying on me?
My father goes to the bedroom and after a while sneaks out in the hallway again, listening.
I hear him sometimes in his room but he don’t talk to me and I don’t know what’s what. It’s a terrible feeling for a father. Maybe someday he will write me a letter, My dear father…
My dear son Harry, open up your door. My son the prisoner.
My wife leaves in the morning to stay with my married daughter, who is expecting her fourth child. The mother cooks and cleans for her and takes care of the three children. My daughter is having a bad pregnancy, with high blood pressure, and lays in bed most of the time. This is what the doctor advised her. My wife is gone all day. She worries something is wrong with Harry. Since he graduated college last summer he is alone, nervous, in his own thoughts. If you talk to him, half the time he yells if he answers you. He reads the papers, smokes, he stays in his room. Or once in a while he goes for a walk in the street.
How was the walk, Harry?
My wife advised him to go look for work, and a couple of times he went, but when he got some kind of an offer he didn’t take the job.
It’s not that I don’t want to work. It’s that I feel bad.
So why do you feel bad?
I feel what I feel. I feel what is.
Is it your health, sonny? Maybe you ought to go to a doctor?
I asked you not to call me by that name any more. It’s not my health. Whatever it is I don’t want to talk about it. The work wasn’t the kind I want.
…branches cutting the sunless sky. At the corner of Avenue X, just about where you can smell Coney Island, he crossed the street and began to walk home. He pretended not to see his father cross over though he was infuriated. The father crossed over and followed his son home. When he got to the house he figured Harry was upstairs already. He was in his room with the door shut. Whatever he did in his room he was already doing.
Leo took out his small key and opened the mailbox. There were three letters. He looked to see if one of them was, by any chance, from his son to him. My dear father, let me explain myself. The reason I act as I do… There was no such letter. One of the letters was from the Post Office Clerks Benevolent Society, which he slipped into his coat pocket. The other two letters were for Harry. One was from the draft board. He brought it up to his son’s room, knocked on the door and waited.
He waited for a while.
To the boy’s grunt he said, There is a draft-board letter here for you. He turned the knob and entered the room. His son was lying on his bed with his eyes shut.
Leave it on the table.
Do you want me to open it for you, Harry?
No, I don’t want you to open it. Leave it on the table. I know what’s in it.
Did you write them another letter?
That’s my goddamn business.
The father left it on the table.
The other letter to his son he took into the kitchen, shut the door, and boiled up some water in a pot. He thought he would read it quickly and seal it carefully with a little paste, then go downstairs and put it back in the mailbox. His wife would take it out with her key when she returned from their daughter’s house and bring it up to Harry.
The father read the letter. It was a short letter from a girl. The girl said Harry had borrowed two of her books more than six months ago and since she valued them highly she would like him to send them back to her. Could he do that as soon as possible so that she wouldn’t have to write again?
As Leo was reading the girl’s letter Harry came into the kitchen and when he saw the surprised and guilty look on his father’s face he tore the letter out of his hand.
I ought to murder you the way you spy on me.
Leo turned away, looking out of the small kitchen window into the dark apartment-house courtyard. His face burned, he felt sick.
Harry read the letter at a glance and tore it up. He then tore up the envelope marked personal.
If you do this again don’t be surprised if I kill you. I’m sick of you spying on me.
Harry, you are talking to your father.
He left the house.
Leo went into his room and looked around. He looked in the dresser drawers and found nothing unusual. On the desk by the window was a paper Harry had written on. It said: Dear Edith, why don’t you go fuck yourself? If you write me another letter I’ll murder you.
The father got his hat and coat and left the house. He ran slowly for a while, running then walking, until he saw Harry on the other side of the street. He followed him, half a block behind.
He followed Harry to Coney Island Avenue and was in time to see him board a trolley-bus going to the Island. Leo had to wait for the next one. He thought of taking a taxi and following the trolley-bus, but no taxi came by. The next bus came by fifteen minutes later and he took it all the way to the Island. It was February and Coney Island was wet, cold, and deserted. There were few cars on Surf Avenue and few people in the streets. It felt like snow. Leo walked on the boardwalk amid snow flurries, looking for his son. The gray sunless beaches were empty. The hot-dog stands, shooting galleries, and bathhouses were shuttered up. The gunmetal ocean, moving like melted lead, looked freezing. A wind blew in off the water and worked its way into his clothes so that he shivered as he walked. The wind white-capped the leaden waves and the slow surf broke on the empty beaches with a quiet roar.
He walked in the blow almost to Sea Gate, searching for his son, and then he walked back again. On his way toward Brighton Beach he saw a man on the shore standing in the foaming surf. Leo hurried down the boardwalk stairs and onto the ribbed-sand beach. The man on the roaring shore was Harry, standing in water to the tops of his shoes.
Leo ran to his son. Harry, it was a mistake, excuse me, I’m sorry I opened your letter.
Harry did not move. He stood in the water, his eyes on the swelling leaden waves.
Harry, I’m frightened. Tell me what’s the matter. My son, have mercy on me.
I’m frightened of the world, Harry thought. It fills me with fright.
He said nothing.
A blast of wind lifted his father’s hat and carried it away over the beach. It looked as though it were going to be blown into the surf, but then the wind blew it toward the boardwalk, rolling like a wheel along the wet sand. Leo chased after his hat. He chased it one way, then another, then toward the water. The wind blew the hat against his legs and he caught it. By now he was crying. Breathless, he wiped his eyes with icy fingers and returned to his son at the edge of the water.
He is a lonely man. This is the type he is. He will always be lonely.
My son who made himself into a lonely man.
Harry, what can I say to you? All I can say to you is who says life is easy? Since when? It wasn’t for me and it isn’t for you. It’s life, that’s the way it is — what more can I say? But if a person don’t want to live what can he do if he’s dead? Nothing. Nothing is nothing, it’s better to live.
Come home, Harry, he said. It’s cold here. You’ll catch a cold with your feet in the water.
Harry stood motionless in the water and after a while his father left. As he was leaving, the wind plucked his hat off his head and sent it rolling along the shore.
My father listens in the hallway. He follows me in the street. We meet at the edge of the water.
He runs after his hat.
My son stands with his feet in the ocean.
1. Define the conflict at the basis of the short story and its main theme.
2. Define the prevailing form of presentation. What types of narration can you point out?
3. How many narrators does the author employ?
4. Can you differentiate between the instances of interior monologue and the characters’ dialogue? How do you know they are addressing each other if the formal marks of dialogue are absent? What is the author’s purpose in resorting to such specific forms of presentation?
5. What is the effect of multiple narration as compared to the presentation of events through only one point of view?
Next Term, We’ll Mash You
Inside the car it was quiet, the noise of the engine even and subdued, the air just the right temperature, the windows tight-fitting. The boy sat on the back seat, a box of chocolates, unopened, beside him, and a comic, folded. The trim Sussex landscape flowed past the windows: cows, white-fenced fields, highly-priced period houses. The sunlight was glassy, remote as a coloured photograph. The backs of the two heads in front of him swayed with the motion of the car.
His mother half-turned to speak to him. “Nearly there now, darling.”
The father glanced downwards at his wife’s wrist. “Are we all right for time?”
“Just right. Nearly twelve.”
“I could do with a drink. Hope they lay something on.”
“I’m sure they will. The Wilcoxes say they’re awfully nice people. Not really the schoolmaster-type at all, Sally says.”
The man said, “He’s an Oxford chap.”
“Is he? You didn’t say.”
“Of course, the fees are that much higher than the Seaford place.”
“Fifty quid or so. We’ll have to see.”
The car turned right, between white gates and high, dark, tight-clipped hedges. The whisper of the road under the tyres changed to the crunch of gravel. The child, staring sideways, read black lettering on a white board: “St. Edward’s Preparatory School. Please Drive Slowly”. He shifted on the seat, and the leather sucked at the bare skin under his knees, stinging.
The mother said, “It’s a lovely place. Those must be the playing-fields. Look, darling, there are some of the boys.” She clicked open her handbag, and the sun caught her mirror and flashed in the child’s eyes; the comb went through her hair and he saw the grooves it left, neat as distant ploughing.
“Come on, then, Charles, out you get.”
The building was red brick, early nineteenth century, spreading out long arms in which windows glittered blackly. Flowers, trapped in neat beds, were alternate red and white. They went up the steps, the man, the woman, and the child two paces behind.
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