Captive of a G-string: An Analysis of literary techniques in Nicola Barker’s short story “G-String”
Nicola Barker’s short story “G-string” relates the troubles of a middle-aged woman with her self-confidence, how she fails to achieve the respect and admiration she seeks from her boyfriend Mr. Kip, as well as how she struggles to attain a certain idea of herself as a modern woman by wearing a G-string. With a humorous tone and use of the G-string as a symbol, Barker allows us to follow her protagonist, Gillian, in her dilemma between wearing fashionable undergarments to resemble the picture she has of a voguish woman, or rejecting the unpleasant G-string and accommodating who she is, with her flaws and imperfections. Barker lets us grasp that putting an end to our constant struggle to fit into society’s mould is the first step on the road to self-assurance. By letting us witness the amendment in the attitude of Gillian’s partner Mr. Kip, when our protagonist finally cracks and loses her meek facade, the author furthermore states that our self-perception, with approval or denigration, will dictate how others see us, and define our power of seduction. Barker uses the G-string as the symbol of society’s control over women. In her narrative, the frivolous panties become the standard in which every woman feels she should fit in order to be sexy, desirable to men, and most of all modern. The stereotypical character of Jeanie, whom we meet in the beginning of the story, introduces Gillian to the G-string. She is the archetype of the trendy, classy woman that society sees as sexy and up-to-date: “Jeanie - twenty-one with doe eyes, sunbed-brown and weighing in at ninety pounds - told Gillian that the dress made her look like an egg-box. All lumpy-humpy” (70). So when this fashionable, elegant individual declares to Gillian, speaking of the G-string: “These are truly modern knickers (…). These are what everyone wears now” (70), it is to be understood that the G-string is a necessary garment in the attire of today’s women. This convinces Gillian to make an attempt at wearing the (very small) piece of clothing that does not appeal to her. As an important image throughout the story, the G-string is the symbol Baker chose to represent society’s idea of a contemporary woman. It becomes a statement of modernism from the woman sporting it. Like any ideal, it neglects the true physique and distinctiveness of the wearer. Gillian, who is described as: “a nervous size sixteen” (69), does not have the required build to look good in the G-string. Gillian decides to follow Jeanie’s advice and wear it anyway, but to the sacrifice of her mental comfort: “Oh the G-string was a modern thing, but it looked so horrid! Gillian wanted to be a modern girl but (…) her heart sank down into her strappy sandals. It tormented her” (71). In this passage, the reader can appreciate how the G-string makes Gillian uneasy. She feels awkward, but continues to wear it because she desperately wants to be a modern-day woman. The author uses the symbol of the G-string to teach us how we cannot all fit into one profile, because we are all different and unique. If we persist in struggling to be someone we are not, disrespecting our true personality and figure, we are bound to be uncomfortable, to feel out of place. As the repressive garment awkwardly confined Gillian in a bogus persona, the removal of the despicable lingerie inevitably generates a magnificent relief. At the apogee of the story, Gillian ultimately takes off the G-string and feels liberated, more confident: “She was knickerless. She was victorious. She was truly a modern female” (72). Barker’s protagonist experiences an intense sentiment of emancipation as she is unshackled from the restraints of the oppressing knickers. She finally feels the self-assurance she was pursuing when she discards the G-string, and admits that it is not for her. It is not who she is. She feels better about herself for...
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