Critical Essay – “By any other name” by John Lavin Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 9 November 2017

Critical Essay – “By any other name” by John Lavin

In the short story “By any other name” written by John Lavin, the theme of relationships is developed throughout the story by Lavin’s choice of language and descriptive writing. By looking at Lavin’s chosen setting and characterisation in the story, I will examine the theme of relationships.

The story is set in the slums of Glasgow around the 1930’s is about a boy called Peter and his fight for survival with his parents in very poor conditions.

To examine the theme of relationships it is important to examine the setting of the story. The setting Lavin created and how they get on with each other affect the characters.

Due to a rapid growth in urbanisation, overcrowding and poor living conditions were very common.

“Disease and death and want stalked through the sunless hovels”

The use of personification here offers the reader an insight into the terrible conditions that many had to endure this period of time. It also shows how poor the family were.

“Smell of cats and sickness and primitive drainage”

This creates a very filthy image of the area they lived in. It also gives the reader the shock factor. I also feel that it puts a very hard strain of the family has they have to live in such horrible conditions.

Peter does not get on very well with his father and they don’t have a very good relationship with each other.

“He was always drunk just as I was always hungry”

This shows that Peter’s father spent all the family’s money on drink and since they had no money they could not afford to put no food on the table. I also feel this shows that Peter had no respect for his father and also resented that his dad spent all the money.

“I still fell pity I had for him, the only emotion he ever stirred in me”

This gives the me the reader an insight into the feelings Peter had for his father. Peter I think felt sorry but had no real admiration for him, as he was always drunk and never really cared for him.

“A mangled thing”

Here Peter is talking about his father. This is a very impersonal thing to say about your father but this was true in Peter’s case. I also feel this shows that Peter lack any sort of emotion.

Peter had a very good relationship with his mother.

“My mother had the loveliest hair I ever saw”

I feel this shows that Peter shows a lot of affection for his mother and that he loves her dearly. He also I think admires her for putting up with his father and the terrible living conditions that they had to endure.

“Grey autumn day”

I feel that his sets the tone for his mother’s death as she died from TB. I also think that his conveys very well how Peter feels, as he is now all alone as he does not get on with his father.

Peter’s parents did not have a very good relationship.

“They seldom spoke”

They did not have any real conversations. The short sentence I feel sums up and emphasize how poor their relationship was.

I think John Lavin has done a great job of convey the theme of relationships between family members.


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