Morris Lurie was born in Melbourne in 1938. He is better known for his short stories though he has written some novels too. He has won several awards in Australia for fiction. The years spent away from Australia in voluntary exile form the subject matter of much of his writing. Background/Setting
The main character is a school boy whose “greatest ambition” is to be a comic strip artist. The story explores the uncertainties and trials of being an adolescent with unsupportive parents.
In the short story ‘My Greatest Ambition’ by Morris Lurie, we experience the disillusionment of a thirteen-year-old boy as he tries to live a dream that he initially thought would set him apart from all others. Nu’s illusion is set up when his father calls him a “prince” right before Nu’s meeting. It was the first time that his father had complimented him throughout the duration of the memoir. Even though his father was not directly trying to give Nu false hope, the effect of this praise on Nu seemed to point him to that direction.
The reference to a “prince” relates to success and fortune, which would subconsciously give Nu the impression that he would prosper and become a successful comic strip artist at ‘Boy’ magazine.
The disillusionment begins when he approaches the office. Nu expects the building itself to be grand and imposing but instead he sees a very mediocre building that “looked like a factory”. He outlines his disappointment when he says: “No neon, no massive areas of plate glass, no exotic plants growing in white gravel”.
Each time he repeated the word “no”, it added to his growing sense of disappointment. He also uses repetition with the word “ordinary” as he describes the details of the building, which emphasises his realisation of disillusionment.
When Nu is being toured around the factory he says, “…I was eating an ice-cream”, which indirectly makes Nu seem more immature and out of place. This contrasts from the illusion that Nu had earlier of himself “walking to work every morning…with a pipe in my (his) mouth.” Since his fantasy of being a grown man smoking his pipe and going to work had turned into being a 13 year old in a ridiculous suit eating ice-cream, the disillusionment becomes a more prominent factor in the story.