The following extract is taken from the book- ‘Reading in the Dark’ by Seamus Deane written in 1996. The extract focuses on one of the chapters in the book titled as ‘Feet’. The extract is based on a young boy hiding under the table viewing the death of his sister and how she is taken to the hospital. Through the style, setting and characterization, the reader is able to understand the thoughts and feelings portrayed by Deane.
The extract is written in an autobiographical style, from the point of view of a young boy who narrates the story. The repetition of ‘I’ gives the extract a personal touch. Using the boy as the narrator allows the writer to acquire greater intimacy and sympathy for the character. In addition, it makes the extract comic and light hearted, even though it talks about death and loss. This fusion of comedy and tragedy reflects the idea that life is a series of sorrows and joys. The extract is set under the table. Throughout the extract, the boy’s name is not revealed which allows the reader to explore other characters in the extract through his perceptions.
The reader gets the impression that the boy is young and naï¿½ve. He is not aware of the seriousness of the situation as he ‘loved’ the names of the diseases. He finds the names peculiar and compares them with ‘Italian football players’, ‘racing drivers’ and ‘opera singers.’ The dog is symbolic of what the boy feels. The ‘whimpering’ and ‘quivering’ of the dog reflects the boy’s inner feelings. “I became deaf to their words and alert to their noise” presents the idea that the boy has become like the dog, behaving in the same way.
Deane mentions ‘feet’ in the first line of the extract which reinforces the importance of the title. Also, the repetition of ‘feet’ suggests the importance and significance of the title since the young boy sees everyone from under the table judging them only on what shoes they’re wearing. Deane uses visual and aural imagery to captivate the reader’s attention in line 1 and 2- “I could only see their feet. But I could hear the noise and some of the talk…”
Deane uses heavy sensory imagery to emphasize the importance of ‘feet’ as the title. He describes the characters and their social status through the shoes they’re wearing. For instance, in lines 30-34, “I recognized Uncle Manus’s brown shoes: the heels were worn down… Uncle Dan and Uncle Tom had identical shoes, heavy and rimed with mud and cement… Dan’s were dirtier… but they weren’t good shoes.” The detailed description of the shoes allows the reader to make judgments about the characters. The description is used for characterization- ‘mud and cement’, give the reader the impression that they’re working men at a construction site. ‘Heavy’ suggests that they’re strong, muscular men and develops their personality in the reader’s mind. ”But they weren’t good shoes” suggests that they’re not very rich people.
The predicament of the extract is presented through specific and short sentences. “Una. My younger sister, Una.” This sentence clearly brings the focus on Una, to highlight the importance of her character. The writer tells the readers that she is going to die and goes into great details describing her illness and pain. “That morning, Una had been so hot, pale and sweaty…she had made me think of sunken fires… her eyes shone with pain and pleasure, inflated from the inside.” The coupling of ‘pain and pleasure’ reinforces the idea that joy and sorrow go hand in hand.
With his style, use of imagery, setting and characterization, Deane creates an intriguing story which reflects harsh ideas of death and reality through the innocent, happy world of a young, naï¿½ve boy.