Crichton Smith Critical Evaluation Essay
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“Home” by Iain Crichton Smith is a short story which creates a sense of time and place. This essay will examine how the sense of place is shown in setting and will comment on the message the writer has. Jackson is a man returning to his hometown in Glasgow from South Africa. It becomes apparent to the reader that the setting, in both time and place, is a very important aspect in conveying the meaning of the text. In the short story it becomes apparent that the place has changed since Jackson was last here as the city of Glasgow has undergone a period of decline and decay.
This is shown in different ways such as characterisation, descriptive language and the use of imagery.
Smith shows firstly how very unpleasant Jackson’s hometown has become at the start of the story. He describes how things are poorly maintained like his old tenement has become drab and the walls are described as: “Brown above and dirty blue below, pitted with scars” Brown shows how unpleasant the setting is through the use of negative colour imagery. The colour brown very often has negative connotations. This gives the reader an immediate negative image of the tenement.
Also Smith uses the colour blue which should give a positive image, however he uses it with the word dirty which also gives the reader an image of the unpleasant environment around the tenement. Also to give the reader a bit more of a negative image of the area, Smith writes “pitted with scars,” which has two meanings in the story one of which is suppose to mean the area is literally scarred because the area has been very poorly maintained and is very unpleasant. The second meaning is that it is metaphorically scarred because it has had an emotional impact on everyone in the neighbourhood. This is also used to highlight the horrendous living conditions in Glasgow.
While Jackson remains regretful about the hardships of the living conditions in Glasgow and in his tenement, Jackson’s wife has a more realistic idea that times have changed in Glasgow when she says to Jackson, “Lock the car dear,” This shows the reality of this area and shows Jackson’s ignorance and that his wife is very wary about that particular area. Jackson shows how naï¿½ve he really is and that he does not realise that the place has changed dramatically and protests: “They don’t do things like that here” The image of the unpleasantness of the area is again highlighted. “as the town had changed a lot since they had left it, that much was clear” The story continues by focusing strongly on the negative changes such as, the loss of the community spirit, the local shops and the loss of friends to “featureless estates”. Smith is clearly commenting of how the social conditions of Glasgow have changed dramatically through time.
Jackson visits his old office, a place of happy memories of. However, upon entering the office his memories are shattered and he begins to realise how uninteresting and unpleasant the office actually is. Jackson stood “cringing in that rotting office.” This shows that Jackson’s view is beginning to change as he draws back and he does not enjoy being back at his old office. Both “cringing” and “rotting” have negative connotations and this highlights how uncomfortable he is beginning to feel in an office that appears to be decaying in his eyes. At this point the reader is also meant to see that Jackson’s nostalgia destroys the strikingly expressive memory immediately after arguing with the factor of the building.
Jackson shows and immediate change of attitude and character when he now sees Africa as home by suddenly saying; “I wish to God we were home” This speech shows the dramatic change in his character. The reader sees how the nostalgia that Jackson had has been completely destroyed. Also he sees people who live in the tenements as punks when Smith writes; “By God, they knew how to deal with punks where he came from” Iain Smith uses very effective word choice. “Punks” shows how Jackson sees people who live in the tenements in a very bad way.
The reader is made aware of the ignorance of Jackson and he appears to have learned nothing from his visit and he would have still have acted aggressively. Overall, “Home” by Iain Crichton Smith is a short story which has been shown throughout. The character of Jackson has changed dramatically because of the setting in place. This short story shows that people can be naï¿½ve when they are talking about where they come from but when they leave and come back again and see a massive difference which changes the character of the person.