The short story “Low Visibility” by Margaret Murphy is a fictional story, which deals with many topics, such as violence, love, hate, oppression, and right and wrong and the story is told by an uninstructed and omniscient 3. person narrator who tells the story as it unfolds. The plot takes off in medias res as we are thrown into a scene where Laura’s husband John is watching television without any introduction. The structure in the story lets us jump a bit back and forth between two settings, as we are shown what is happening in the streets though Johns television, while we are also following the main characters in the apartment. So the story unfolds two places: the streets and John and Laura’s apartment.
The setting shows that Laura and John does not have a lot of money, and are probably low class or low middle class because they live in an apartment above a shop, which is not normally a location those people would choose to live. There is also smaller details that support this, like the fact that John wears boots inside, and John feels that his wife should not be trusted with anything of value, which might be an indication that they don’t really have many things of value. The title “Low Visibility” is a synonymous of Laura. She does not have anything to say at home, and she is John submissive. Margaret Murphy plays on this pun, by letting Laura feel invisible to her very filling husband, John. At the end of the story, Laura walks outside and joins the people of low visibility. Thereby she gets over John, and she does not want him to be a part of her life any more.
Margaret Murphy shows this by now referring to her by her real name. We don’t hear a lot of factual stuff about Laura, how she looks and so on, but we do know a lot about her character. She used to be a happy, out going person and now her husband has squeezed the spirits out her( P.8 l.19-24). Laura is now a humble, nervous, humourless, unhappy and very submissive person: “Better that he hurt her absent-mindedly, as a man might puncture and tear at the rim of a polystyrene cup. It comforts her that there is no malice in it. She has learned to find solace in small things.(p. 9 l. 49-51) From this, it is obvious that their marriage is deeply dysfunctional. “ People say he’s light on his feet for a big man, but he never was so with her. When he walked all over her, she felt it.”(P. l. 105-106).
The sentence clearly describes their marriage pretty much. He doesn’t know how to love and she can’t stand up for herself. When he is described as a big man, it also symbolizes how he is both verbally and physically abusive and more in control than her. John as young he was always the outsider. The sort of person who always slouched at the edge of a group, eager to be a part of it, but never really was accepted and respected by the others.
And exactly this depressing role was the reason for his and Laura’s marriage in the first place. She wanted to help him, to teach him how to interact with others socially. And he was hoping for about the same; that her popularity would make him popular too: “He thought that her good humour would seep into him, breaching the walls of his defences, that happiness was something that could be absorbed, as a plant takes in water, by osmosis.”(P. 8 l.19-22) Yet it did not work out the way they planned. He simply didn’t have the abilities: “He hadn’t the intelligence for wit or the disposition for contentment…”( P. 22-24)
The masses in the street are revolting because of some sort of oppression even though it is not said directly in the text what they are protesting against, and like he doesn’t have the intelligence to understand his wife, neither does he understand the people in the street:”What are they protesting about?’ John demands. “Their own shitty lives?’’(p. 8 l. 14). The riots are like Laura, just in a bigger scale.
Because John does not understand this, he goes down to the store to fight off all of the looters, to strangle their protest like he strangled her spirit, but when he is beaten up and is lying on the ground, Laura sees that he is just a man, a man who feels afraid. Laura realizes that a person has ability to change. She is revived. “She feels herself returning – the particles of herself that her husband caused to flee are returning into her” (P12 l. 161-163).
She considers killing him with a brick, but chooses the Tigers Eye instead which is placed in her other hand. The Tigers Eye symbolizes that she is focus, patience like a tiger who concentrates on its desire. In this case, Laura’s desire is to be free.
The most important is the importance of fighting for your rights and freedom. Laura’s marriage has reduced her to a simple object with no liberty or human rights. As the story however approaches, she realizes that she will have to stand up against her husband, if she wants the situation changed.
When Laura walks away, she walks away to be invisible again, to join the invisible people (P. 12 l. 173). She fight oppression and changed the situation, like it is naturally to fight oppression. Sometimes you need a little push like Laura did, but essentially it is inevitable. It secures human survival, and it secured her mental survival. “A window explodes behind her, sending cascades of glass, musical, deadly, to the pavement. Laura is unharmed” (P. 12 l .78)
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