Analysis and Interpretation of “Clara’s Day” by Penelope Lively

Topics: Heart, Short story, Nudity Pages: 5 (1339 words) Published: November 21, 2012
Jeppe Højmark, 1.d !
English: Clara’s Day


Clara’s Day: Analysis and interpretation
“Clara’s Day” by Penelope Lively takes place in a school in London, approximately in the mid 80s. 15 year old Clara Tilling takes her clothes off in morning assembly one day, and walks naked through the crowd into the form-room, where she put on a science overall. Moments later a teacher brings her clothes, and Clara continues school. People are patting her back and giving her attention, which wears off at lunch time. Later, Clara is called to the Head’s office where they talk about the event of the morning. Clara’s answers are not quite clear and she does not come up with any points on why she acted the way she did. As she says that everything is fine, the Head sends her off, letting her know a note will be send to her mother. Clara passes the park on the way home. A few days later, when Stan (her mother’s friend) had spend the night, the note from the Head arrives, and Clara’s mother and Stan’s responses include giggling and grinning, as if it was a joke. When they leave the breakfast table Clara is sitting alone and she bursts in to tears.

Clara has been an insecure girl through her childhood according to her mother. At age of 15, when she walks naked through the school, she has clearly both grown and changed. It was either planned or she had just thought it over, when she took her clothes off, because she prepared herself by not wearing any underwear. Clara might have wanted to feel more liberated, and the nakedness could symbolize her new way of living, while all of her clothes are the stress and insecurity and all the things that are against her, she is leaving behind. Clara will realize that it is not easy to go from one life to another, when Mrs Mayhew, a teacher, brings her the clothes (which still symbolizes the things she wanted to leave behind) she wore earlier. Another thing that shows how Clara is feeling about not being a free person, is how she is repeatedly placed in big rooms, where she is just a small girl next to large items: “enormous rubber plant” (p. 1) and “big paper-stern” (p. 2). It feels like



Jeppe Højmark, 1.d !
English: Clara’s Day


Clara is a small girl, with nothing on her heart next to these largely described objects. This is one of the reasons for Clara to undress her self; in order to feel more free. When Clara is talking to the Head of the school she is saying, that she did not undress herself to achieve attention from her peers. That is partly true, because it could have been her intention: When the second line of the short story reads “She walked through lines of girls…” (p. 1) it is simply saying that her school is an all-girl school. Also the fact that all of Clara’s peers, that are mentioned, are girls. Since Clara’s father is no longer with his mother, Stan is the only male role in Clara’s life and if Clara resents him, that means her life is very absent from males. By undressing herself she achieves some attention, although the attention she really needs are from boys, who are very non-existing in her life.

There are other literary devices that lead to the missing father in Clara’s life: Without reading between the lines you can draw a line between the Head (of the school) and Clara’s mother, because neither of their names are mentioned. That is because they are both women in Clara’s life, that do not take her seriously enough to find out whether her problems are consequential. The Head is only asking simple questions about her life at home, school, etc. She just sends a note to Clara’s mother, who obviously does not take it with any seriousness; she merely laughs at the letter and passes it to Stan, who does the same. Again; Clara needs her father, who could be the only intellectual serious male figure she ever had in her life. Another thing that symbolizes how Clara needs her male parent, is when Lively focuses on male body-issues: In the park...
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