Shoe Horn Sonata by John Misto

Categories: MindMusicSonata

The distinctly visual leads us to think about significant issues in our world. Do you agree? Many composers use various techniques in which they communicate the distinctly visual. John Misto’s ‘The Shoe-Horn Sonata’ and Alexander Kimel’s ‘The Action in the Ghetto of Rohatyn, March 1942’ represent significant issues in our world by using various literary and dramatic techniques.

Through using these techniques it is evident that the composers of these texts allow the audience to ‘see’ with our eyes as well as with our minds.

The many literary and dramatic techniques have the ability to create a visual that links significant and impacting issues within our world. Throughout ‘The Shoe-Horn Sonata’, Misto uses the shoe-horn as the dominant motif and visual. The shoe-horn is enforced in the name of the play and what it symbolises gives it its importance; however throughout the play its symbolic meaning seems to evolve.

Bridie first mentions the shoe-horn in Act 1, Scene 1, where she speaks fondly of it as a gift from her father.

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“There are three things every young soldier should know. Always use a shoe-horn – it’ll make your boots last longer…” The shoe-horn, for Bridie, represents the joys of home and family, a reminiscence of happiness – a life before the horrors of war. As the play progresses the symbolism of the shoe-horn changes. Later on during the play, the shoe-horn is used as a survival mechanism when Bridie “taps” Sheila, who cannot swim, to stay awake and to prevent her from drowning in the ocean.

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Sheila refers to it as a “whack” using a much more dramatic sense of onomatopoeia. Throughout the play, the shoe-horn is of immense help to both Bridie and Sheila and is used as a constant motif. Misto uses symbolism and motifs as a tool to allow the audience to visualise the images that link to significant issues within our world. The shoe-horn here represents the issue of survival through the war. Misto constantly refers to the shoe-horn throughout the play and has altered the meaning of the shoe-horn and what it symbolises.

In Act 1, Scene 5, Sheila tells of the choir that was being formed within the camp, the shoe-horn takes on an almost pivotal symbol, as the metronome of the choir; “Fifty voices and a shoe-horn. ” The shoe-horn which had acting as a metronome drove the music that enabled the women to sing spiritually, freely and emotionally allowing them to rise above the deprivation and horror they had witnessed and experienced during the POW camps. In the next scene, Sheila takes a look at the shoe-horn which she has kept hidden and the memories come back to her. Please –please – don’t send me away. I’ll do whatever you want. I promise. ” Misto uses emotive language to communicate to generate a visual for the audience of the dark and hidden memory of Sheila. This memory symbolises what Sheila had done for Bridie during their time in the POW camp. Sheila had traded her virginity, instead of the shoe-horn for quinine to save Bridie’s life. This act of sacrifice highlights the loyalty and friendship that Bridie and Sheila share.

By the end of the play, it is evident that the shoe-horn comes to represent the enduring nature and strong connection that these two women share and is clearly seen in the last scene of the play. Through the use of stage directions this is shown; “As they [Bridie and Sheila] dance, the stage gradually grows darker and darker – except for a very bright spotlight on Bridie’s shoe-horn” which reinforces the importance of the shoe-horn throughout the play.

The shoe-horn has various meaning to it and through the use of literary and dramatic techniques, it had the ability to create a visual that links to significant and impacting issues within our world such as the violence and cruelty. Misto uses another visual to link the audiences mind to the significant issues within our world. Music is both a pivotal technique and a motif within the play. The title takes on thematic relevance as we learn of the women using music to lift their spirits and bolster their courage and unity during the dark days of their imprisonment.

In Act 1, Scene 1, Sheila and Bridie explain “Fifty voices set us free. Fifty voices and a shoe horn…” This orchestra created by Miss Dryburgh gave the women hope and by working together as a group they were able to forget the oppression of the camp, even if it was temporarily. Misto also uses symbolism to represent music. “But we sang our… so the camp would know that there was still music left. ” During the darkest time in the war, the only thing they had left was music. This gave every prisoner a glimpse of hope; it was their way of expressing their escape from the war although it was momentarily.

Misto uses the technique of motifs and symbolism for music to give the audience a clear visual that there is still hope when there is suffering in the world. ‘The Action in the Ghetto’ is a poem based on the perspective of a holocaust survivor. Kimel re-tells the horrors that he had survived during the holocaust. Kimel uses various literary techniques to create a visual for the audience to ‘see’ his experience. Kimel describes the visual of ‘the hunt’ as “the creation of hell. ” He uses this metaphor to describe the soldiers and their true nature.

Kimel then goes on describing the Nazi soldiers as “enjoying the hunt. ” Kimel’s perception of the Nazi soldiers was that they found the hunt to be fun which provides insight into the animalistic characteristics of the soldiers. Kimel uses descriptive language throughout his poem to create an image for audience of what it was like to experience this horrendous time. Through the use of literary techniques, ‘the hunt’ had the ability to create a visual that links to significant and impacting issues within our world such as the violence, cruelty and the dark and hidden nature of humanity.

Kimel uses another visual to lead the audience to think about significant issues of our world; ‘the aftermath’ of the massacre. Yet again Kimel uses descriptive language to create an image for the audience of what it was like after the massacre. “…ripped feathers floating in the air” and “the night scented with snow-melting blood” described how ghetto looked like after the soldiers has killed everyone. The sensual imagery that was used to describe the night represents the freshness of the massacre.

This image of the aftermath shows the brutality of humanity and how they can be so cruel. The audience is able to sympathize with the people and the survivors of the horror that they had went through. Each stanza begins with “Do I want to remember? ” Kimel uses a rhetorical question whether or not he should remember the suffering and violence because these memories are painful. It is evident through the use of these literary techniques; Kimel was able to able to effectively create a visual in which the audience is able to ‘see’ with their eyes as well as their mind. The Shoe-Horn Sonata’ written by John Misto is a play that deals with the brutality the women faced in World War II. Misto wrote the play because he was concerned that the pain and suffering that many women endured at the hands of their Japanese captors after the fall of Singapore had been forgotten. The play serves as a tribute to those victims of the atrocities of war, and looks at the effects such horrendous experiences can have on those who experience them.

Through the use of both literary and dramatic techniques, Misto has effectively communicated visuals in which the audience creates with their mind regarding the issues within our world. ‘The Action in the Ghetto’ written by Alexander Kimel also had a similar effect on the audience. Through the use of literary techniques, Kimel was able to create visuals within the audience’s mind of the atrocities of humanity. The distinctly visual does in fact lead the audience to think about significant issues within our world.

Cite this page

Shoe Horn Sonata by John Misto. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Shoe Horn Sonata by John Misto
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