Sandpiper – Orientation into the story

 Sandpiper page 371 of “Stories of ourselves”

The passage is located after the first three paragraphs at the start of the story where the narrator is describing the path outside from her house to the sea and the beach near her. The path and the sand on it is a represents destiny or fate. The narrator in the first several paragraphs also describes the beach and what she does and how she feels when she’s there. Her actions and her description shows her personality: calm and neutral. “I used to sit very still”; “I used to sit where the water rolled in… I would sit inside one of these curves… fitting my body to its contour-“.

Themes

-Romance: “twelve years ago, I met him. Eight years ago, I married him. Six years ago, I gave birth to his child.”, Sixth summer of our love”, “aglow with health and love”, “ a young couple in a glitzy commercial for life insurance…”

-Nature: “I looked out to sea… water and sand… very edge of Africa… dusty green interior, its mountains, the big sky…”

-Time:” twelve years ago… Eight years ago… six years ago… eight summers…four years… second summer… I was twenty nine. For seventeen years my body had waited…”

Setting & atmosphere

The setting is in Alexandria on a beach during summer which is shown through the repetition of the word “summer”. The repetition of the word “summer” and bright colours give a warm atmosphere/feeling for the reader: “Warm, hospitable sand…sunset along the water’s edge… pale bronze …burnt brown…aglow with health and love…”

Language & tone

The language is colloquial and 1st person although in this extract the majority of it is in third person: “sixth summer of our love- and the last of our happiness” (told in third person as it is a recount/memory) .The tone of the extract is rather melancholic where the narrator is reminiscing the beginning of her marriage. “last of our happiness…thought of those things and missed them…no great sense of loss…”

Characterization

The author describes the main character in this extract as independent and calm. This is shown by the constant reference to the sea and beach, where the sea is a calm and deep (meaning empathetic) and the beach where she is ever changing and only influenced by one force/person (in this case her husband). “I looked out to sea and now I realize…I thought a lot about the water and sand…I loved her father that summer”. “The white glare, the white wall, and the white path” This quote shows she is now dry and empty carrying on with her own journey along her own path no longer heavily influenced by her husband.

The extract is about the narrator recalling her feelings for her husband and how he has impacted her life. She used to live in Scotland but now lives in Alexandria, Egypt due to the influence of her husband bringing her there on holidays. ”I tried to understand that I was on the edge, the very edge of Africa”. She reminisces the summers in Egypt where she and her husband were madly in love and the aesthetics of their relationships is obvious.  However their relationship falls apart “I thought about our life in my country, before we were married…I thought of those things and missed them-but no sense of loss”. She describes this to show a contrast or dramatic change on their relationship as the author shows at the bottom of the extract that the narrator no longer feels the same way for her husband .Where her description of the sand being “dry, solid white” gives connotations of used up or empty in contrast to the start “-darker, more brownish-beige.”

Sandpiper pg 372

Where in the story?

Prior

–          The narrator explained her marriage and lifestyle with her husband.

Post:

–           her first trip to Egypt.

–          Explains how her marriage collapsed.

–          Talked about Lucy.

Narrative structure/style

–          Episodic, some of the story is her memory while some is her present life.

–          1st person, perspective of the wife –  limited to her so the reader doesn’t know the husbands point of view or his side of the story.

–          Continuous stream of consciousness.

Setting/atmosphere

The narrator talks about her life in Egypt, set in her husband’s family home.

It’s her first time in Egypt and she is an outsider to their way of life and doesn’t really fit in at this point. “tomorrow I would get used to their ways”

The atmosphere is gloomy while she tries to reassure herself that she did the right thing.

Language/tone

There is a lot of colour imagery as the narrator describes her surrounds “black leather sofa” “yellow silk” “flowers in purple and green” “gold bangles” “gold  in her ears”            compared to when she was in Europe , which was  “white” or  “grey” at this point the narrator is still with her husband so this use of colour imagery could be seen as to say that when she was married her life was colourful and bright and happy while in the beginning when she was alone on the beach she describes the setting with only “white”

It could also be seen to be saying that, as all this colour is used to describe a Pakistani woman that the narrators life is dull and she is somewhat jealous of the other woman’s colourful life and that because this other woman accepts and embraces the culture around her she is able to be happy and more interesting in a way than the narrators life.

I should have gone” is repeated throughout the extract showing she is trying to reassure herself that her marriage was crumbling and that her husband “ was pulling away” from her and that she did the right thing in leaving him.

Characterisation

In this extract it is clear that the narrator feels neglected and repressed. She keeps trying to help out but they keep refusing her volunteering help and everything she does doesn’t suit their ways “what am I here for? Keep your hands nice and soft. Go and rest. What have toy to do with these things?” her husband’s family isn’t letting her help. “meals I planned never worked out” “if I tries to do the shopping the prices trebled”- nothing she does is right and fits in to their way of life. The narrator feels useless and this is clear when she says “ I lie content,  glad to be of use” just by her daughter using her as a pillow comforts the narrator and she is doing something and is at least useful to someone. The narrator knows that this will not last and eventually none of them including her daughter will not need her “so soon to come” this adds to the narrators gloom.

Themes

The theme of culture clash is evident in this extract as the narrator is unable to accept the fact that she is not needed and other family members do everything for them and she doesn’t accept or understand their ways of doing things and knows that she doesn’t fit in to their culture and life style.

Sandpiper Analysis- P374

Narrative Style

-First person narrative

-Stream of consciousness mixed with dialogue

-Episodic

Setting/Atmosphere

-Set in a beach house inAlexandria,Egypt.

-The room is the woman’s safe haven. But it is also her prison as it is restricting.

-‘But then she was born here. And now she belongs.’ The woman does not feel like she belongs, but her daughter does.

Language/Tone

-Alliteration: ‘…crunches cucumbers and carrots…’, ‘…twisting, twisting.’ ‘…bicycle bell…’, ‘Peeing, Praying and Petrol’.

-Imagery: ‘mountain of yellow grapes’

-Religious reference: ‘I can see the place where we’re going to be… in heaven.’

-Repetition: ‘I am sick… I am sick’, ‘I lie down on the bed… lying on the bed’.

-Listing: ‘vanish, slip away, recede’, ‘my inability to remember names, to follow the minutiae of politics, my struggle with his language, my need to be protected from the sun, the mosquitoes, the salads, the drinking water.’

-Metaphor of the woman’s love with her husband: ‘A fairy godmother, robbed for an instant of our belief in her magic, turns into a sad old woman, her wand into a useless stick.’

-Metaphor of life: ‘losing the intensity of its glare’.

-Tone: distant ‘his room’, hopeless ‘A lover I had and can never have again.’

Characterisation

-Lonely: ‘my only playmate now is Lucy’.

-Hopeless: ‘…I can never have…’

-Longing for familiarity: ‘it will always be winter there’, ‘I am sick… for home.’

-Does not know what she did wrong: ‘…but he couldn’t tell me how.’

-Her cultural boundaries keep her distant: ‘my foreignness… began to irritate him.’

-Tries to find joy in life: ‘Lying on the bed, I hold the cluster of grapes above my face, and bite one off as Romans do in films.’

-Tries to change things but unable to: ‘I breathe on the window-pane but it does not mist over.’

Themes

-Loneliness

-Culture difference / culture shock

-Past & reality

-Relationship / love

Sandpiper

Page 376 (last page)

Prior: The narrator was just referring to a plane incident. Throughout the story she has been looking back on her relationship with her husband.

Narration

– first person narration

– episodic narration

– narrator’s thoughts on her relationship from the perspective of who felt like an ‘outsider’ and was ‘foreign’

– ends in present tense – a variety of tenses used to show the episodic nature of the story.

Setting/Atmosphere

“with each ebb of green water the sand loses part of itself to the sea” – the sand representing the narrator’s values and the sea representing the husband shows the new Egyptian values that the narrator has to adapt to yet each one takes a part of her own values away showing the clash of cultures.

The sea/sand/beachside is a metaphor for her life – this refers back to the beginning of the story where she is describing where here point in life is at the moment.

“But what do the waves know…? And what does the beach know…” – a comparison and a realisation that both sides did not understand each other’s values fully.

“The last of the foam was swallowed bubbling into the sand” – personification. Shows the merging of the two values being ‘swallowed’ by each other.

Language/ Tone

Juxtaposition:

“My treasure, my trap

“To the edge of this continent where I live, where I almost died

Repetition: (the narrator could not forget him; this is emphasized on the fact that he was the only person she thought of during her narrow escape from death. Although there is that distance and lack of intimacy between the narrator and her husband, what they had still remains with her and is what she remembers most vividly.)

His name, his name, his name became a talisman”

– a ‘talisman’ is inscribed showing the husband has a permanent place in her life.

“My Lucy, Lucia, Lambah,”

Personification: (the sand is the narrator and the wave is the narrator’s husband – shows the dominance of the Egyptian culture versus the narrator’s own values. )

“white waves that whip it, caress it, collapse onto it , vanish into it.”

– her relationship process- first mixing of values then loving and protecting, breaking away and finally completely drifted.

“The white foam knows nothing better than these sands which wait for it, rise to it and suck it in.”

“And what does the beach know of the depths, the cold, the currents just there…”

Rhetorical Question: (as if to question life, unknowing what is to be brought upon her – relates to the fate and destiny theme)

“do you see it?”

“But do the waves know of … the scalloped edge?”

“hadn’t all that was not him been wiped out of my life?”

Characterisation

“My Lucy, Lucia, Lambah… Lucy. My treasure, my trap.”

The narrator’s daughter is the only reason she will stay in her marriage.

“Her skin is nut-brown, except just next to her ears where it fades to a pale cream gleaming with golden down.”

With such a detailed description, we can see that the narrator is much closer to her daughter than her husband.

“where I wait for my daughter to grow away from me…”

Although she loves her daughter and wants to stay with her, she realises that this is impossible with her distancing relationship with her husband.

“And what does the beach know of the depths, the cold, the currents just there, there – do you see it? – where the water turns a deeper blue.”

Here the beach is a metaphor of her husband. The narrator desperately wants him to “see”; to understand her and her culture.

“his name, his name, his name became a talisman”

Shows her undying love for her husband and how he gives her strength despite their drifting relationship.

Themes

Clash of cultures – “The white foam knows nothing better than those sands which wait for it, rise to it and suck it in.”

The power of love – “his name, his name, his name became a talisman”

Parent-child relationships – “My Lucy, Lucia, Lambah… Lucy. My treasure, my trap.”

Destiny/Fate – “this is what my life amounted to.”

Time/ageing/becoming more knowledgeable – “I see different things from those I saw that summer six years ago”

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11 thoughts on “Sandpiper – Orientation into the story

  1. this really helped but i believe that you could give the answer to the question ‘why’, not only what at the last section. i mean not just say ‘that tone is…..’ , ‘imagery is ……’ but also say ‘that indicates her longing for the home’…etc.

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