“Sandpiper by Ahdaf Soueif Essay
“Sandpiper by Ahdaf Soueif
Ahdaf Soueif illustrates through vivid characterization how disparate racial origins can drive a deep wedge between people, particularly couples who figure in a romantic relationship. The place or setting is the biggest factor in this short story, it is a reason for the couple’s fading love and growing estranged. The setting places the narrator in a foreign land, whose cultural values have a negative impact on her causing her to fade from blissful love to saddening regret and hurt. Her identity is altered to that of a foreigner as perceived by those around her and this changes her mind set, perceiving herself differently, as a different person. The most apparent portrayal of the result of the setting on the narrator is the “fading love” experienced between her and her husband. The flashbacks present within the story, “My second summer here was the sixth of our love – and the last of our happiness.” allude to the vast differences between their relationships at various times.
This allows the reader relationship wise, to sense the regret and deep emotional state experienced by the narrator. Soueif portrays her as a helpless being, lying in hope of luck and in hope for a magical change. The comparison of ‘each wave……different’ to that ‘vast blue’ acts as an real life image to the two sides of her life.The ‘vast blue’ seems to remain as her expectations as she dreams of such a ‘low growl’, it being calm , soft and natural, moreover it being the behavior she expects from her husband remembering it to be there ‘six years ago.’ Her wants seem totally perfect as she settles in complete love with her partner, but such a one sided relationship seems to be taken as granted. The writer gives special emphasis on the phrase, “Eight Summers”, instead of eight years, indicating that the speaker has lost the warmth and the love from her husband, considering the fragile situation. Readers can infer the fact that cold and dark winters lie ahead of her, which could be full of insecurities and instabilities.
Furthermore her independent nature due to the fading connections is evident from the lines, “The white glare..” which shows readers that the speaker is dry ,empty, carrying on with her own journey and is no longer heavily influenced by her husband. Soueif sympathises with he circumstances the English woman is in while she tries to adapt into her new family. She has tried before but with failed attempts so she is scared to try again. As she is walking down the beach she thinks about her happy family as the “white sands” and that she places only the “ball of her foot” without disturbing the pattern of the sands. Readers can see that she is trying very hard to adapt into the family without ruining the peace within it; she is scared that people will not accept her and even though there is enough space to walk, she thinks that she does not have “much room” like she has given up and cannot try further.
The foreignness /loneliness felt by the narrator is conveyed throughout the story, “My husband translated all this for me and said things to her which I have come to understand meant that tomorrow I would get used to their ways.” This quote represents her inability to conform to the cultural and social acceptances. Readers can not only sense the fiasco/disappointment of the English women, but also the irritation faced by the husband. Lucy, is the daughter she gave birth to yet she refers to Lucy as ‘his daughter’ indicating that even though they are both her parents; the narrator identifies Lucy as belonging to him since she was born and raised in this foreign land. “My treasure, my trap” allows the reader to notice that the narrator, this woman, wants to escape, to leave, but she is held back by the maternal love she has for her daughter.
The narrator was from Europe and her marriage to an Egyptian man has cross-cultural implications. Even though “the inferior status of women” was explained to her, she still went through with this marriage. One could presume that the narrator’s ethnocentrism was evident in assuming that her marriage would be more like a western one. “My foreignness, which had been so charming, began to irritate him.” indicates that once he had returned home, the narrator’s inability to change him to her setting, her ‘place’ affected their relationship. This is backed by, “He was back home, and he needed someone he could be at home with, at home.” indicates that the narrator herself is aware of the implication her inability to conform is having on her relationship.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the poet has given a very significant title sandpiper, A sandpiper is a bird, and here it signifies their Daughter Lucy, she is the neutral factor in this land(husband) vs sea( the wife), as even though they are unified, they can be never be together, also Lucy seems to fit in more on the land ( the father) as living organisms are better of land then In water. This is backed by the various examples of her being on a “beach”.