Sandpiper – Ahdaf Soueif (1994) Ahdaf Soueif was born in Cairo, Egypt, but she grew up in England. She married an Egyptian but it didn’t last long, and she later married the English poet Ian Hamilton –from whom she eventually separated as well. Her marriage experiences can be seen in Soueif's central themes. Her potent themes and far-flung settings make for deep reflection and reader interest. Characters: - Unnamed protagonist – blank narrator; fading love; disillusioned; displaced; lost; without solid purpose in life; alienated from new “place” (and daughter?); passive - Unnamed husband – no identity (removed out of bitterness, or because he is simply no longer her life’s ‘focus’?); unwillingly fading love; still cares - Lucy – new ‘focus,’ (therefore she gets a name?); torn between cultures Basic Plot: - Protagonist recounts (via narration and flashback) the generalities of her relationship to her now husband. This includes their early relationship (characterized by pure love, excitement of ‘foreignness’ and innocence), the decision to marry (supposed realization that he is the most important thing in her life via near death experience, also that he becomes her ‘reason to live’ (she writes for him, collects stories for him, etc) and – somewhat – vice versa), decision for children (penultimate expression of her love for him) and the slow breakdown of their relationship (drifting apart because of ‘practical’ differences and a waning of original emotions. The focus/ ‘reason for living’ shifts to Lucy). The exterior relationship begins to fall apart as she searches for her place in the world – this is something that shifts from Man to Lucy, but neither of these things are true purposes, just passing ones. - A summer afternoon spent at a beach-house is rather inconsequential; therefore, deduce that the actions of our characters, since they do not contribute to the plot, are actually reflections of their personality. - Narrative structure includes disconcerting juxtapositions between memory and the present to show the narrator’s state of mind. Themes: - Cross-cultural tensions/ ‘stranger in a strange land’ experiences - Identity (how place influences identity/shows you things about yourself - like poems “Summer Farm” and “Where I Come From”) and finding one’s place in the world. Essay Questions:
Discuss the cross-cultural tensions experienced in “Sandpiper” and their repercussions on the protagonist’s life, relationship(s) and Self/identity. - In “Sandpiper,” what role does “place” play in forming one’s identity? How does this affect the narrator/her life? - How does the author use literary techniques to enhance his/her theme? In this essay you should explore the theme, symbols, characters, conflict and struggle, diction, narrative/poetic devices, etc. Questions: 1. A) Describe the narrator’s current life with reference to the text (page numbers required). B) Why would the writer create a life like this for the central character (what is the writer’s intended effect)? (The listless current life of the protagonist emphasizes her feelings of dispossession and displacement. It also keeps the focus on the narrator’s thoughts/feelings and leaves the reader up to analyze her instead of keeping up on action. Can also work as a duality: new life quiet and uneventful, old life full of excitement.) 2. The protagonist is surrounded by people – why would she be lonely? (She can’t relate to these people from different “place” from hers. She feels like an outsider among locals.) 3. The protagonist has regrets about her life/choice. Find in the text where you see these regrets made clear. Page references required. (371 – “and the last of our happiness”, 372 – “I should have gone”, 374 – “she would have belonged to me” also “Yes, I am sick – but not just for home”, 376 “this is what my life amounted to” also “My treasure, my trap.”) 4. Identify some of the problems the protagonist faces because she is living in a foreign land (ie, cross-...
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