SHORT STORY ANALYSIS QUESTIONS – “The Toilet” by Gcina Mhlope
1. What is the main element in the story? (plot, theme, characters, setting, etc..)
This story is theme-driven. The idea (i.e the value statement) that things should be a particular way (and not the way they are) and it is this idea drives the thoughts and behaviour of the main character, the narrator. The reader is allowed to witness the passion, courage and resilience of a female African artist (in this case, a writer) who struggles to overcome multiple barriers (her gender, “race” and economic class) in her attempt at artistic expression.
2. What sort of conflict confronts the main character(s) (internal or external)? Explain.
The narrator experiences external conflict. The demands of the rest of the world force the narrator to modify her behaviour. (e.g She has to keep quiet and be silent, when all she wants to do is sing and express herself.)
The narrator experiences internal conflict. The world forces her to be a consumer of thoughts, whereas she wants to be a creator and expresser of thought. (e.g She gets bored of reading the magazines and longs to write.)
3. How does the author handle characterisation (description, conversation, actions)?
The author does not provide any physical description of the narrator or her sister. Indeed, the reader is only told their respective names a while into the story. Mhlope forces the reader to form an opinion of these two characters unencumbered by distracting detail. The reader’s opinion of these two characters is thus inevitably formed by their responses (intellectual and behavioural) to the demands, constraints and restrictions of the social, political and economic reality in which they find themselves.
The Effect of the Use of Irony on the Progress of Poe's Short Story, 'The Black Cat " This Paper will interpret a short story, 'The Black Cat', by Edgar Allan Poe. My Purpose is to show the effect of the use of irony on the progress of the short story. I Suspect that use of irony in Edgar Allan Poe's short story, 'The Black Cat,' is one of the main points which allows the hidden character of the ...
4. What is the time setting for the action? Period of history? Season? Time of day? How much time does the story cover?
The story is set in apartheid-era South Africa, and its duration is most likely a few weeks, a couple of months at most.
5. What is (i) the rising point, (ii) climax, and (iii) the resolution/denouement of the story?
(i) The rising point: The narrator secures a job at a factory, but her wages are not enough to allow her to move of her sister’s room and rent her own accommodation. This forces her to come and go in secret. The subterfuge causes her some distress as she has to leave earlier than necessary, and return home long after she has finished at her work. This is all in an attempt to avoid the scrutiny of the Madam, who would not take kindly to her lodger (the sister) allowing other people to stay with her in the room.
(ii) The climax: The narrator comes home before her sister and decides to enter the Madam’s premises. Unfortunately, she finds the room locked. Unable to enter, she decides to wait for her sister in front of the room. This is where the Madam finds her after the barking of the dogs give away her presence. The sister is angry when she finds out, and this leads to tension between the two characters. This scene physically illustrates the narrator’s sense of being “locked out” of the kind of life she so desperately wants to live.