Louise Buxton’s Mount Pleasant is a very uniquely written short story, where we experience a normal day from a child perspective. It’s a modern story from 2005. The story is told in first person singular, where the narrator is a young girl whose name is Elizabeth. ”(…) like the glue wee peel off our hands after arts and crafts hour at school with Mrs Kelly.” (p.2, l.16-17) Based on the information we know that Elizabeth goes to school, but also that she cannot be more than 6 to 8 years old. When she finds the old photograph of a boy which is a 9-10 year in a costume, we are told that she is not quite as old as he is. We know that she is a young girl, judging by her verbal skill and behavior. “With the sun in my eyes, I couldn’t see my mammy’s face, not even squinting with both arms above my head and my head tilted”. (p.2, l.22-23) The language is very descriptive and it seems as if one were looking through the eyes of a child.
The short story varies from other traditional first person stories by putting the focus on a child and what a child does. Elizabeth’s focus is on everyday play, and those days are to her full of adventure and close friendships: ”Lena, Little Fran, Wilf and me – playing for hours at house or working at some theatrics”. (p.5, l.152-153) Or where there is a break with everyday routines. For example, when Lena and Elizabeth discovers a business with unlimited possibilities in the form of candy and ice, until the mother puts an end to the adventure: ”(…) raspberry ruffles and chewing nuts and chocolate raisins and liq-uorice sticks and ice cups and strawberry boot lace. We put them on Mammy’s account at first but Mammy found out after she got given a bill (…).” (p.4, l.92-94)
The children also play ghost games, where they attempt to frighten one another by dressing up in linens and pursue one another. In several cases reveals the narrator herself as a child by acting irationaly. When Lena and Elizabeth lie in their beds and think they can hear ghosts, they pull the sheet over their heads and lie still. The reaction shows a childish logic. If they cannot see the ghost, then the ghosts cannot see them: ”If I don’t move, they can’t get me.” (p.5, l.147-149)
Since the perspective is a child’s, it is particularly interesting to see where the child’s perception of situations and episodes differs from that of an adult. For example, when Elizabeth thinks that the mother reknits the nuns clothes, because the mother is good at knitting and can do it better: ”(…) and mammy isn’t proud, she always takes them – and unravels them and knits them again, better, because she’s a good knitter, my mam”. (p.4, l.87-89) The reason is more likely that the mother does not want people to know that they have gotten the clothes from the nuns.
The narrator being a child has the effect that we as readers several times pause to think about what it means. At several places in the story where Elizabeth tells about an episode where the reader has to interpret the situation, to determine whether it’s a ghosts or just the narrator’s childish imagination. It’s for example unclear in Elizabeth’s depiction of how the photograph ends up on the mantelpiece again and again: ”But somehow it found its way back on top of the mantelpiece.” (p.4, l.102) Or where she feels like there is somebody sitting on the bed and watching them. The fact that the narrator is a child is very easy to see by analyzing the language. She mentions her parents with expressions such as “mammy and “daddy”. The little brother, George William she calls “babby”. The language is characterized by an absence of literary language.
An example of this is where she says that their hands are “(…) lickity-stickity”. (p.5, l. 121-122) She invents her own expressions, which results in the story being poor in traditional imagery like comparisons and metaphors. The imagery used is mainly related to the child’s imagination. For example when she feels uncomfortable in her clothes she says: ” I’m all blowed up like an old frog.” (p.2, l.12) Another interesting thing is how the sounds in the house are described. Elizabeth perceives the sounds caused by the wind to be scary, and describes it with the use of personification. The short story takes place in an environment that Elizabeth knows well, which is at their house, Mount Pleasant. We don’t hear much about the world outside the neighborhood, or thoughts that exceed it.
This is of course because she is a child who is not involved in it. “We know the roads around Mount Pleasant pretty well now. And everybody knows me and Lena.” (p.4, l.83-84) The tittle of the short story Mount Pleasant, which is the name of their house, indicates how safe and merry their life is, and stands as a stark contrast to the spookiness. Mount Pleasant can be seen as a symbol of childhood joys and play. Her childhood eventually gives in to a more mature and realistic perception of reality. When Elizabeth throws the photograph in the fireplace, it seems as if she actively tries to fight her fear. She might think that the deceased boy had something to do with the ghost. She goes to bed, and the tension builds up and gets stronger and stronger until she finds out that there is nobody there at all. Elizabeth takes a small step towards becoming an adult; she finds out that there are no connections between the photo, the scary sounds and the deceased boy.
Subject: Short story,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 1 October 2016
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