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Theme Of Loss

By PaperNerd Contributor Nov 28, 2001 1613 Words
General Theme of Loss Loss is a phenomenon that everyone experiences in life. Whether it is a loss of great or little significance just depends on how a particular individual handles the situation. After reading the short stories by Caribbean and African writers in Concert of Voices it is evident that a general theme in many of the stories is loss. Throughout these stories characters experience the loss of something that is of great importance to them. The deprivation of this thing causes a feeling of emptiness or incompleteness within a person, troubling them emotionally.

Loss is an inevitable occurrence found in everyday life. It is not something that tends to cause happiness when experienced. Once experienced, one must overcome this loss and move on with life. Personally, I can relate to this sense of having to "move on". Very recently one of my grandfather's passed away. I was very close to him. He was one of my most trusted friends in the world. The day of his death all my family and I waited by his bedside in the hospital until his last breathe was taken. The moment he stopped breathing it was as if I piece of me was torn out. Not physically, but in a mental way far worse than any physical pain could cause me. Within the last couple weeks I have come to the realization that my grandpa is not coming back. Although this hurts I know that I must move on in life with a "part" of me missing inside. Dwelling on this dreadful event is not going to make life easier for me to deal with as time passes by. It is almost clear that this is the approach that one must take to maintain sanity in a situation of loss.

The loss experienced within the short stories is not just a loss of anything. It is the loss of something with deep down emotional ties whether it is a family member, a friend, a love interest, or an object of significant meaning to oneself. For example, in "The Coffee-Cart Girl" by Es'kia Mphahlele a worker from Metropolitan Steel Windows called China gets fired after a strike. He has lost his job. However he meets a woman whom he calls Pinkie who works at a coffee cart. In the rise of events he gets to know her better and falls in deeply in love with her. At the end of the story he loses her due to his jealous accusations that she is cheating on him. This jealousy and his disruptive behaviour towards her cause him to never see her again. These two losses are of different significance to the worker. One is merely a job and can be replaced while the other is a deeply routed love for an individual that is unique and irreplaceable. However, even though China knows he will never see Pinkie again he still "dares to hope that she would come back, just to meet him. And that all he had with her was not just a dream" (291).

In "B. Woodworth" by V.S. Naipaul the loss dealt with is similar emotionally to that of the loss in "The Coffee-Cart Girl". In each of these stories people that are loved dearly by the individual are lost. However, in this story there are two losses presented that are both of huge significance to the characters, instead of a major and minor loss like in "Coffee-Cart Girl". In this story a young boy meets a poet named B. Woodsworth. The boy becomes intrigued by the character of this man and spends much of his time with him. When the boy spends time with Mr. Woodsworth he feels as if the poet brings the quality of life to a whole new level and suddenly "the world becomes a most exciting place for him"(303). As time passes, B. Woodsworth grows older & the boy develops a strong felt love for his friend. However, one day a sudden lash of reality whips the boy and he realizes that his good friend is getting old and that he is beginning to lose him to time. "And then"I felt it so keenly, it was although I had been slapped by my mother. I could see clearly on his face. It was there for everyone to see. Death on the shrinking face."(305). The boy has learned that death is going to take his dear friend away from him. Once he acknowledges this fact, he sprees from Mr. Woodsworth's house in a cloud of troubled emotions knowing that he would probably never see him again. Even though he never actually witnessed or been told that his friend had died he still felt a loss of something that meant a lot to him in life.

The other momentous loss in this story is that of a loved one to someone, the loss of B. Woodsworth's wife and unborn child. One can tell that the poet was caused much grief from this happening by the way he tells the story to the young boy that adores him. "But this poet was never born, because the girl died, and the young poet died with her, inside her. And the girl's husband was very sad, and he said he would never touch a thing in the girl's garden."(303). This shows that the poet truly loved his wife and that her death and the baby within her had a huge effect on how he lived the rest of his life.

Losing a person can be devastating in life but so can the loss of an object or thing that means a lot to one. Another story where loss is clearly evident is "The Boy Who Loved Ice Cream" by Olive Senior. In this particular story it is the loss of an object which a young boy named Benjy cared for. This object was ice cream. Although one would think that this object should not hold such a great connotation in the child's life, it was the world to Benjy at the age he was in the story. He loved ice cream before he had even experienced it, both in sight and taste. It was a mental picture he had created in his brain of everything that was perfect in life. "Ice Cream! The very words conveyed to him the sound in his life that he had always wanted, always longed for, but could not give a name to. He had never tasted ice cream."(385). He had learned of ice cream from his sister who had tried it at the annual Harvest Festival Sale. She described it to him as the best dream he ever had. Once she told him this he knew he had to have it. He waited two years in anticipation for the day to come that he could taste it at the Harvest Festival Sale. When the day finally arrived he was overwhelmed with excitement. Throughout the wait of the day, Benjy goes through multiple occasions of emotional outbreaks while waiting for his Dad to purchase the ice cream for fear of loss that he will never get the chance to experience his most excellent dream. It was not till the end of the day, when the sale was almost over, that Benjy actually got the chance to have ice cream. In spite of all his misconceptions he does get ice cream. His father had to buy it for him and he did not get around to it until the sale was almost over that night. This was due to the fact that he was busy observing his wife to ensure that she was not proving his assumption of her cheating on him correct. When Benjy receives the ice cream from his Dad he is taken aghast be it and just marvels at the aurora that surrounds it. He finally is holding his most treasured thought in life. Before Benjy has the chance to taste the ice cream it is flung from his hand as his father runs towards his mother dragging Benjy behind. The father has spotted the mother talking to another man, while poor Benjy is distraught by the fact that his ice cream is gone. "Mama isn't laughing anymore and why is everyone rushing about and why he has only this little tip of come in his hand and there is no ice cream and he cannot understand why the sky which just a minute ago was pink and mauve just like the ice cream is now swimming in his vision like one swollen blanket of rain."(396). He has lost the opportunity to try something he has always wanted.

Loss is not entirely a bad thing. We as humans need to experience loss to make us stronger and wiser individuals. Once we lose something it helps us to realize just how much we appreciated what we had and just how much we were taking that something for granted. One can learn from these short stories that no matter where your location in the world, regardless of colour, race, ethnicity, we are all human and experience the same emotions as any other individual.

Works Cited Mphahlele, Es' kia. "The Coffee-Cart Girl." Concert of Voices: An Anthology of World Writing in English. Ed. Victor J. Ramraj. Peterborough: Broadview, 1995.


Naipaul, V.S.. "B. Woodsworth." Concert of Voices: An Anthology of World Writing in English. Ed. Victor J. Ramraj. Peterborough: Broadview, 1995. 300 "5.

Senior, Olive. "The Boy Who Loved Ice Cream." Concert of Voices: An Anthology of World Writing in English. Ed. Victor J. Ramraj. Peterborough: Broadview, 1995.

385 "96.

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