The short stories I have chosen to focus on for this essay are ‘‘Flight’ by Doris Lessing and ‘Your Shoes’ by Michele Roberts. I will briefly refer to a third, Graham Swift’s ‘Chemistry’. I will show the character’s desire for control or continuity which conflicts with the choices or sense of independence of another character. I will consider how the writers use the theme of a generation gap, and use symbolism and metaphor to convey meaning to the reader.
Both the writers of ‘Flight’ and ‘Your Shoes’ the narrative technique of symbolism. In ‘Flight’ the grandfather uses a pigeon and in ‘Your Shoes’ the mother uses a pair of new white training shoes (trainers). Both symbolise purity, they are portrayed as precious and in need of being looked after. In both stories, the treatment of the symbolic objects shows how both the grandfather and the mother wish to protect their loved ones from the evils of the outside world. They are also showing that they need to be controlled for their own safety, that in their opinions they are still too young to take this journey on their own. Both of these characters are possessive and don't want to let go of what is dearest to them. Both characters act more possessively due to previous experiences, the grandfather has seen other grandchildren get married and leave home. The mother in ‘Your Shoes’ continually refers to her troubled childhood where she felt she was ignored. The text states, ‘She loved you more than she loved me. It isn’t fair.’
The pigeon and trainers are both symbols of the children used in place of the characters that either have or are about to leave home. In ‘Flight’, the grandfather took control over the bird. He deliberately held out his wrist for the bird to take flight and then caught it again at the moment it spread its wings. ‘Now you stay there,’ he muttered. He does this because he has seen Alice meeting her boyfriend, he is trying to show control over the bird to demonstrate his control over her. This maybe in a protective way but, nonetheless he is still trying to assert his authority and position within the family.
In ‘Your Shoes’ the mother ties the laces together so they cannot be separated or lost. She holds them tight to her, cuddling them and then puts them away in a cupboard so they cannot run off. She states, ‘I’d like you to get married one day. I’d like you to have a normal life, of course I would. I’ve tied the shoe laces together so they won’t get separated or lost. White laces that I’ve washed and ironed.’
The actions of these characters symbolise their feelings towards their loved ones and their difficulty in not being able to communicate their thoughts and feelings directly to the granddaughter of ‘Flight’ or the daughter in ‘Your Shoes’. The writers use these symbols to express their moods or regrets they are feeling within the stories to the reader.
In ‘Flight’ the grandfather shows his contempt of Alice’s boyfriend, ‘Steven’. The text is written from the Grandfather’s point of view and suggests that Steven is an undesirable choice for Alice. The fact that Steven is the ‘postmaster’s son’ is mentioned several times within the text and his comment to Alice ‘Waiting for Steven, hey?’ his fingers curling like claws into his palm, demonstrates it is logical to say here that this simile demonstrates the frustrated emotion, maybe anger that the character feels – he is clenching his fist in an action which suggests he is trying to hold this in. ??? He feels that his granddaughter’s love for him has been replaced, he no longer feels valued or respected and clearly shows his anger and resentment towards, what he sees as the cause, her boyfriend, Steven. This is communicated further when, in an attempt to stop her from seeing Steven, he threatens to tell her mother. When she turns her back on him laughing, and walks away saying ‘tell...