Response to prose Penelope Lively’s short stories
Penelope Lively has a talent for writing short stories. The three I like best are “Beyond the Blue Mountains”, “The First Wife” and “A Christmas fairy tale”. Penelope uses modern issues which can happen to
any of us, with real type of people. She obviously observes human nature and this is where her ideas for the stories come from. In her stories she appeals to our sense of humour and compassion for the people in the stories. She is very critical of certain situations and people. She writes her stories in her own style by listing words and using short sentences this is very effective to the reader. The structure of her stories is to leave a lot of them open-ended so there is no closure. With the idea you can imagine a lot of different endings to the stories. She uses narrative perspective where she angles the stories from one character’s point of view into their thoughts, when she writes a story the title suggests a lot to the reader of what it is about. Then the climax is built up and the story always ends with a twist or change of narrative perspective. This is my reason for why I like the three stories I have chosen out of them all. I can relate to these more and I find them very entertaining.
The First Wife
The story shows us that here is a man called Clive who has been married a few times. Clive could not stand the thought of getting old so when his started to age, he left her so he could be with a younger version thus making himself look younger. He was a very arrogant man had a superior attitude towards people. He was lecherous towards women and a serial adulterer, he felt that the world should revolve around him.
“Women of his own age did not appeal to him, generally speaking”
His attitude in the story is that to Mary he looked pathetic a man trying not to age wearing clothes that made him look ridiculous and a young person’s hair style. His manner was still the same as when she was married to him. He was still selfish and could not believe that she did not want him again. “Must mean that she…..wanted to see him again?” He felt that she was waiting for him to return into her life again.
The letter is used as a device at the end of the story to show us how Mary turns the story back onto Clive by showing us the type of man he was and how he treats people. It shows us that no way does she want him back after the way he treated her. She was pleased that he fancied her and wanted her back that made her feel good. She also was pleased to point out he himself was not wearing so well as he was ageing. “Look she said, so what? You’re getting older. So am I, so is everyone.” She had the last laugh in the end of the story. I think that Clive did deserve what Mary did to him he treated her really badly but I also feel sorry for Clive because Mary did not really understand him about his age worries. Maybe he was like this because of his family upbringing. He had no family life, nobody loved him for himself. “Understand his fits of terror. She had made light of is panic”
Beyond The Blue Mountains
Lively describes Myra and George together, next it changes to Myra’s point of view. What they are both doing and what is happening.
Through the rest of the story we see her point of view of what is happening to her. “Myra listened with interest to the commentary on the coach.” We find out what she thinks and feels about the situation what is happening to her. We are also shown inside the mind of George the other character. “The coach trip was for Myra’s benefit a kindly indulgence.” We are also given an insight into the bus driver’s role into the story. He plays quite a vital role in the story for what happens to Myra. “And for the passenger who interested in the flowers it’s red flower mountain devil, we call it.”
George is having an affair in the story he does not think that Myra knows about his mistress. He has taken his wife on this trip because of guilt. He does not really want to be there, he is not interested in the trip at all or the fact that it’s a luxury trip they don’t normally have. Myra does know about his mistress, she thrilled about the trip, it boosts her confidence and she feels great. “This place is doing something to me, she thought it was as though she had shed a skin, and stepped out new-minted and changed life.” With the bus driver taking an interest in her it boosts her ego a lot. She has so much confidence she challenges George about his affair.
The purpose of the story is that this could be an ordinary person with the same problem. The story also entertains us. I particularly liked the conversation she had with George when she told him she knew about his mistress, he was stunned and shocked. She was so cool about the fact even enjoying her dinner. “I know I don’t really love you anymore. He shook his head `Myra, I’m finding it hard to know what to say…Never mind!” She said, quite kindly “you’re ha a shock” I find the language clear and to the point quite comical in places and very well written. The end of the story leaves the reader to imagine what might happen to the couple when they return to England.
Loved Ones a Christmas Fairy Tale
Penelope Lively is suggesting by this title that we all love to be with our families at Christmas-the ideal Christmas. But the narrower perspective is that she really means the opposite. “It is indeed a fine thing to be amid one’s loved ones at the festive season.” We dread being altogether at Christmas all the family trying to get on and feeling put upon by each other.
This story is about two people Sylvia Cramp and her neighbour Sydney Tylor both in their 70’s. They both describe what is expected of them from their families at Xmas. Sylvia’s daughters expect her to cook and do everything for them and Sydney goes to his family who use him for their convenience. “Do a spot of decorating for them or I’d mind the kids for a night” was for Sydney and for Sylvia “They like a proper Christmas” or “choosy, they are my girls.” These quotations suggest that the children use the parents for free labour, to get jobs to their advantage done free for them.
The daughters phone up their mum Sylvia requesting all sorts of shopping for Xmas- list upon list, no thought about her trying to get her shopping, Sylvia “toiled like a dray horse up the hill back home” or “making it all Christmas for them “smoked salmon, fruit and nuts of course” The daughters all have good jobs but say they have no time to do anything for Christmas. On the phone they try to butte their mum up, though to the reader it sounds sarcastic. “You’re such super cook, or you love doing Christmas don’t you?” During all the shopping trips Sylvia bumps into Sydney a lot and gets to know him very well. Eventually it gets too much for Sylvia. She prepares the house for her daughters on Christmas Eve. “She went upstairs and when she came down she was carrying a suitcase in her hand” she came down and left a letter on the kitchen table which said: “To make soup for many hours.” Then selecting the bottles of drink from the boxes that had been delivered, “a bottle of Moet et Chandon champagne and another La Tour-Carnet.” In these quotations Sylvia is telling her daughters that what they want her to do is hard work and that they think everything is done so easy. They are not prepared to do anything for themselves, she is telling them that it is hard work and to have a go for themselves for a change. Then she picked up her suit case and met Sydney outside in the taxi that was taking them both to Tenerife.
The daughter’s attitude to their mother is patronising, they are sarcastic and do not appreciate their mother at all. Sylvia is very weak to let her daughters use her for their convenience. “We’re exhausted.” “And Collapse” Suggest to us that the children are going to come home and leave all the work to their mum. I like it when she turns; she does what she wishes to do at the end of the story. Sydney also wises up to his family and does what he wants to do. We are shown into the thoughts of Sylvia involved in the story and how they change their thoughts from one way to another. I think the daughters got all they deserved in the end, having to cope with their own Christmas for once with no help. In conclusion the stories all deal with down to earth characters in modern day situations.