In a short story like "Sandpiper", where the protagonist does little except move around in her beach-house in an uneventful afternoon, thinking her thoughts, readers must look for an attraction alternative to the plot. Indeed, the writer, Ahdaf Soueif, has chosen to offer to us an interesting array of existents, in place of the story line, as the main focus of this narrative. In the following essay, I shall discuss how existents--the collection of characters and setting--are used to invoke feelings of dispossession and displacement in the story "Sandpiper", which are essential in raising the main issue of the story, which is the question of one's identity.
Having agreed that the event itself, a summer afternoon spent at a beach-house, is rather inconsequential, we go on to deduce that the actions of our characters, since they do not contribute to the plot, are actually reflections of their personality. This is what French structuralist, Tzvetan Todorov proposed as a characteristic of psychological narratives, narratives which place their main focus on the development of their characters (Chatman 114). We can therefore, identify distinctive traits belonging to the characters by observing their actions.
The characters in this narrative are few: namely the protagonist, "I"; her estranged husband (she refers to him as "her lover"); her daughter, Lucy and her husband's old nanny, Um Sabir. Since it is only the protagonist that appears most often and to whom the readers interact directly, I shall focus most of my discussion based on her development . Our protagonist, "I," can be further differentiated into the narrator, I-now and the character, I-then. I-now is the present figure that has ...
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...his narrative is such that we follow the chain of thoughts of our protagonist "I" as she considers the repercussions of her broken marriage. Since we only interact directly with her, we become persuaded to take her point of view, thus her problem becomes our problem too. In its effective use of character, by focusing the essay on one specific character and endowing her with specific traits relevant to bring out the issues concerned and by setting up the story in an environment that can both draw responses from the protagonist as well as clearly portray her feelings to us, "Sandpiper" has successfully raised the question on one's identity.
Soueif, Ahdaf. "Sandpiper". Sandpiper. London: Bloomsbury, 1997: 23 - 36.
Chatman, Seymour. "Existents". Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 1978: 107 - 145.
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