OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH SHORT STORIES
MARY MANN, LITTLE BROTHER
The story portrays rural life in a little Norfolk village, in the 1890s. It describes the visit of a character (maybe spinster) to a woman who has just given birth to a stillborn baby. At first she visits the husband, Mr.Hodd, and she enters his world made up just of poverty: with his eldest boy he’s cutting turnips. The family already has twelve children, and they’re very poor. When the narrator visits Mrs.Hodd’s house, she finds out that the dead baby is not in his little bed, and his little brothers are playing with his corpse, like a doll. very attentive description, full of details (turnip-house), not useful for the story, they just portray the real aspect of countryside poor families reaction of the mother, UNMOVED, she just says that other children have toys to play with, while hers have nothing, they’re doing no harm to the baby. You notice the idea that also if he’s dead he worth some attention BUT JUST because he becomes a dreadful toy it shows the horrible things that extreme poverty can carry to
PHILIP HENSHER, DEAD LANGUAGES
The protagonist of the story is a young boy who goes away from home to go to school. His family never went to school, so he’s not used to its clothes, and to the behavior he must show. At the beginning his classmates keep making fun of him because of his accent, and he feel like he’s learning some very strange things, about a world he doesn’t conceive like his own. During the first months, he’s obliged to go the Mister’s house, to learn good manners and to do the housework. Actually, during these afternoons, he doesn’t tidy the house, but he talks with the Mistress, while the Mister is upstairs sleeping. They have very strange conversations, of which the young boy can’t fully understand the meaning. When he’s not the youngest in the school anymore, he leaves the Mister’s house, and the Mister gives him a watch. From now, he starts making fun of the couple, like the other boys in the school, forgetting these strange conversations. Puts emphasis on the subjects he studies at school, they show him another world, very distant from the one he’s always lived in. “…the long stilted house, no more than fifteen miles, and no less than half a world away” Particular attention to the languages, he says he’s learning dead languages, and that he and his classmates keep guessing the right pronunciation. Focus is on communication skills of the characters: he changes his accent to be like the others, but then he finds his own accent strange when he listens to his father talking. The conversations with the Mistress are a mistery, he can’t grab any meaning from them. He doesn’t also understand the preoccupations of the couple; the things other students tell about the horrible punishments in the House,and eventually he joins them, he doesn’t distinguish between true and false. Presents the ambiguities in the use of language.
ANGELA CARTER, THE KISS
This short story starts with a peculiar description of an Uzbek market in the city of Samarkand. Then the narrator starts telling a story, that recalls the One Thousand and One Nights. Tamburlaine’s wife has erected a mosque to celebrate her husband return, but an arch needs to be finished. The architect tells Tamburlaine’s wife that he will finish it on time, only is she will give him a kiss. She refuses, and to convince him that all women are actually the same, in spite of their aspect (so that he accepts a kiss from one of her maids), she makes him eat some hard-boiled eggs, painted in different colours. But the cunning architect presents her three bowls full of what seems water; when she drinks, she finds out that the third bowl is full of vodka (the architect proved that despite the appearances, not all the women are the same). She finally kisses him, he finishes the mosque, Tamburlaine returns and disclaims his wife. The description at the beginning is very peculiar, it shows us the...
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