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    The novel Reading in the Dark Essay

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    The extract, titled “Feet”, from the novel Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane, depicts a young boy observing the passing of his younger sister. While being crouched under the table and shrouded behind a tablecloth, the boy is merely a spectator of the situation. While contemplating the pairs of feet of his family members, the narrator interprets the events taking place with the use of imagery, metaphor and similes.

    The passage is written in a first person narration which gives the reader the effect of a more personal and intimate tone, mainly due to the fact that the boy is taking a passive stand but at the same time being an observer of the scenario. Although, there is no direct reference to the boy’s emotional state, the author instead attempts to convey the emotions of the young boy indirectly through his dog, Smoky, who was whimpering and dreading the inevitable death of Una. The narrator tries to elude himself from the ongoing actions that are taking place by becoming “deaf to their words and alert to their noise”, every time his dog would start to quiver. The boy instead tries to divert his attention to the sound and movement of the other characters’ feet.

    The thematic focus lies within death and the oncoming loss of a beloved family member. The narrator shows familiarity with other illnesses, which implies them to be an ordinary element to his life. Humor is faintly used as the young boy recollects the illnesses one by one, while connecting the names of the different diseases with “Italian football players or racing drivers or opera singers”, giving a somewhat ironic effect to the grievous situation. Simultaneously the author uses a slightly comical imagery by ridiculing the mumps as well as drawing a comparison between the swelling caused by meningitis with “helium being pumped into her brain” through a simile.

    This simile is rather peculiar considering the uncomfortable atmosphere and tone which has been provided. The author uses colour imagery through the red handles of the stretcher, as well as the redness in one toecap on one of the ambulance men, to illustrate an indirect reference to blood. It is told that “the lino itself was so polished that there were answering redness in it too”. Here the narrator intentionally tries to avoid an unostentatious explanation to what is happening in reality. Various times the narrator attempts to conceal the negativity of past memories and instead focus on how to bring a diversion to them, creating a more unbiased atmosphere.

    Even though, there is no direct interaction between the protagonist and the minor characters, the author characterizes them by conveying the reader with the help of a metaphor of their feet as a representation of different social positions of the family members. The father being the family provider in his workboots, whereas the mother’s feet “always being swollen” and “her heels in need of mending” reflects her tenuous and feeble nature.

    The words “worn down”, “heavy” and “rimed with mud and cement” are also used to symbolize the family members’ social class, thus giving the idea of the family belonging to a working class in the late 1940s. The diction used provides an interesting contrast in comparison with the glossy black shoes of the ambulance men which juxtaposes the everyday routine of the paramedics who were “clumping” as they walked, indicating nonchalance and indifference. Altogether this portrays the family being worn-out as a result of their past through dealing with various illnesses as previously stated.

    Throughout the last paragraph, an unpleasant ambience is left by leaving the boy neglected from his family and left alone in the empty room. In the end the narrator seems to be able to grasp the certainty of his sister’s oncoming death, and once again attempts to divert himself from the dismal and instead replaces it with a simulated naivety while focusing on keeping a fond memory of his sister smiling in heaven.

    Thus, in conclusion, Deane implies how the narrator emphasizes with the dire situation, but instead of direct involvement – which the narrator is struggling with to conceal – he uses metaphors, similes and imageries to project what the significance of Una’s death is to the narrator as well as the family members. The author effectively makes the reader share the narrator’s observation, but without a grand exposure to what the text is trying to convey.

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    The novel Reading in the Dark Essay. (2017, Nov 22). Retrieved from

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