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Rain - Richard Rive. Essay on a short story we did in my English Studies class

landi 1 / 3  
Mar 17, 2007   #1
Hi Everyone,
I'm a first year student at the Universaty of Stellenbosch (South Africa) and need to write an essay on one of the short stories that we did in my English Studies class. Now, English is NOT my first language and I tend to struggle a bit with putting my ideas down in english on paper.

This is what I wrote so far - (I will also paste a copy of the story itself below my essay and the assignment, so you can get the idea of what i'm writing)

Please be as critical as possible:
(I know my introduction and conclusion is very bad and needs alot of work)

Rain - Richard Rive

"Rain poured down ... Baleful reverberations through a spluttering all-consuming drizzle." (Pg. 80) Richard Rive makes use of different elements to create atmosphere and a bond between the reader and the characters. The one element that is reverberating through the essay is the rain. Indeed the first and the last word of the story is "rain". Rain is the one element that is part of the plot, the way he built his characters, the type of dialogue used by the characters and the type of setting and atmosphere that is created within the story and how the characters find themselves in the set of compassion, love and betrayal.

The story is about two young lovers: a girl, Siena, from the country and a guy, Joseph, from the city who ironically met in a church. It is a sad story where love and deception play a very big role when Joseph betrays Siena with several other girls from the city. Siena becomes almost completely paranoid with curiosity and she leaves the country in search of the sad truth behind the gossip of her family and friends back in Teslaarsdal. While it's raining she waits in a fish and chips shop, owned by Solly, a Jew, for the cinema to come out. The rain stops for a while when the cinema comes out and gives her time to search for Joseph, but she can't find him. Eventually it starts raining again and she sees him fighting in the street. A police van stops and catches him. As she has nowhere else to go, she goes back to the fish and chips shop where gossip about Joseph's fight already started. The owner of the fish and chips palace finally shows her some compassion by offering her fish and chips free of charge and some shelter from the rain, but she eventually leaves the shelter of the shop and chooses to step out into the rain.

When looking at Solly's character he appears to be a very unfriendly, rude person, but we may also suggest otherwise; if you take his surroundings and other factors, such as customers in consideration we may lodge the question whether he is just in a particularly bad mood this day. His customers don't seem to be taking him seriously. When he asks whether they live in a tent, they just reply with "Ag Solly" (Pg 80) as if they are quite used to his behaviour. Also his refrain of "close 'e blarry door!"is repeated so often throughout the story that it becomes rather expectant and humorous while loosing the essence of supposed irritation and he repeats the same phrase on the last page to Siena while grinning. This phrase reverberates and perseveres like the rain. When looking at his relationship with Siena one almost gets the idea of compassion after he offered her fish and chips free of charge and shelter from the rain. But is he really trying to be nice to her or is he, in fact, looking for something else? The lines on Pg. 83 ("Solly rubbed sweat out of his eyes and took in her neat and plain figure. Tired face but good legs.") and also on Pg 86 ("Okey. Nice legs.")may show yet another mysterious side of Solly. He is caught by surprise when she ironically calls him "baas" and he imagines himself in a grand evening suit which may indicate his desire for respect. Even his shop's name: "Grand Fish and Chips Palace" is ironical as the profound name is no luxurious restaurant as the name suggests: "Inside stuffy with heat, hot bodies, steaming clothes, and the nauseating smell of stale fish oil." (Second Paragraph Pg 80)

Siena's character, on the other hand, is in total contrast with Solly's. She appears to be a little shy and submissive, but her aching heart - like the rain, an "all-consuming drizzle" - stresses her depression (First Paragraph Pg. 80). When the drizzle stops, her heart feels empty. We may also suggest rudeness on her side after Solly repeatedly tries to have a conversation with her and she ignores him (Pg. 81) On the other hand, she is sad and in love. She also seems to be very confused when she starts looking for her lover's face in the crowd and finds herself searching for Solly's face instead. Did Solly make such a good impression on her or is she just holding onto the face of the first person actually being nice to her or is she willing to be abused once more? Yet she doesn't accept his last offer for shelter from the rain and she actually dares to go out into the rain, instead of staying in Solly's shelter.

Although Joseph never speaks a word the reader is well aware of his type of character from the other characters' point of view. Nowhere is Joseph able to explain himself, but his opinion is not really important. The silence of his character emphasizes the dislike one develops in him. The naming of his character is also very ironical, because Joseph was the earthly father of Christ and therefore it's a very religious name and doesn't really fit the image of a street rat. (Once again the rain is part of the character: Joseph desperately kicking in the swollen gutters, (Pg. 85) as if trying to get rid of something) Joseph and Siena met in a church which adds up to the irony and which leads to the question whether he really is such an obscure character.

In the dialogue all the characters (except Siena) appear rather rude and insulting using short, abrupt and harsh sentences such as "Oh go to hell" (Pg. 81) and "Think you got `e on`y door in Hanover Street?" (Pg. 80) These sentences reflect the attitudes held by the characters and sort of people of District Six during the Apartheid's era who use words unthinkingly, resembling their way of treating one another. Yet, despite their banal vocabulary they seem to be an almost tight community that stick together and help one another in times of need, for example the Muslim who offers help to Siena regarding the time when the movie comes out. Even Solly shows some compassion towards Siena after realizing her situation, although he may have other intentions. Siena's dialogue, on the other hand, differs from the other characters. This may be because she is from another community where the white people and men are very dominating and therefore she addresses Solly, who is a white Jew, as "Baas."(Pg. 81)

Rive uses a very effective way in constructing the sad, depressing mood of this story, focusing on senses such as sight, smells and sound. Although he tends to "over" describe things such as in the very first paragraph on Pg. 80 it creates the perfect atmosphere where the rain symbolizes Siena's sorrow and despair. "Dripping neon signs reflecting lurid reds and yellow" might give the brief impression of hope, although "swollen gutters and overflowing and squelching pavements, gurgling and sucking storm-water drains..."could be a reflection of Siena's urge to vomit - getting rid of her over flown emotions or even an urge to drown in her own misery. "Table Mountain cut off by a grey film of mist and rain" is a resemblance of her vague vision and uncertainty.

From a technical viewpoint the story is written grammatically incorrect with short sentences. This also adds up to Siena's incomplete thoughts and feelings or may present a factor of the rain itself which is broken down in small droplets, but forms an uncontrollable stream in the end, the same way in which the short sentences and the way they address one another could be because of a force behind everything.

The author chose to write the story in the third person and this gives us enough info to study and judge every character up to a certain extent only, leaving various options to consider when discussing each character. Solly, for instance, he comes across as a very rude and unfriendly person, but yet we do not know his thoughts and history, so we build his character around how other characters see him. Also Siena's character leaves various options regarding her behaviour. Lastly Joseph's character is very much on the foreground although he never speaks a word and the reader is never aware of his thoughts and feelings. By leaving Joseph on the background it opens up room for discussion about the way he acts and leaves Siena. In a third person story it opens a large overview of situations for discussion, because we do not know the character's personal feelings and thoughts. If it was indeed written in the first person, only one character would have been on the foreground, in this case probably Siena or Solly.

In conclusion Rive technically built a love story filled with betrayal, love and compassion very effectively, creating different ways of building characters and creating atmosphere. There is an appeal on the reader's senses, emotions and mind, leaving it to the reader to look at the story from different viewpoints. However, he knitted everything together with an unslipping knot, namely the rain which is part of all the elements in the story.

OP landi 1 / 3  
Mar 17, 2007   #2
The Short Story:
Rain - Richard Rive

Rain poured down, blotting out all sound with its sharp and vibrant tattoo. Dripping neon signs reflecting lurid reds and yellows in mirror-wet streets. Swollen gutters. Water over-flowing and squelching on to pavements. Gurgling and sucking at storm-water drains. Table Mountain cut off by a grey film of mist and rain. A lost City Hall clock trying manfully to chime nine over an indifferent Cape Town. Baleful reverberations through a spluttering all-consuming drizzle.

Yellow light filters through from Solly's 'Grand Fish and Chips Palace.' Door tightshut against the weather. Inside stuffy with heat, hot bodies, steaming clothes, and the nauseating smell of stale fish oil. Misty patterns on the plate-glass windows and a messy pool where rain has filtered beneath the door and mixed with the sawdust.

Solly himself in shirt sleeves, sweating, vulgar, and moody. Bellowing at a dripping woman who has just come in.
'Shut'e damn door. Think you live in a tent?'
'Ag, Solly.'
'Don' ag me. You coloured people can never shut blarry doors.'
'Don't you bloomingwell swear at me.'
'I bloomingwell swear at you, yes.'
'Come. Gimme two pieces o' fish. Tail cut.'
'Two pieces o' fiesh.'
'Raining like hell outside,' the women said to no one.
'Mmmmmm. Raining like hell,' a thin befezzed Malay cut in.
'One an' six. Thank you. An' close' e door behin' you.'
'Thanks. Think you got 'e on'y door in Hanover Street?'
'Go to hell!' Solly cut the conversation short and turned to another customer.
The northwester sobbed heavy rain squalls against the windowpanes. The Hanover Street bus screeched to a slithery stop and passengers darted for shelter in a cinema entrance. The street lamps shone blurredly.

Solly sweated as he wrapped parcels of fish and chips in a newspaper. Fish and chips. Vinegar? Wrap? One an' six please. Thank you! Next. Fish and Chips. No? Two fish. No chips? Salt? Vinegar? One an' six please. Thank you! Next. Fish an' chips.

'Close 'e blarry door!' Solly glared daggers at a woman who had just come in. She half smiled apologetically at him.
'You also live in a blarry tent?'
She struggled with the door and then stood dripping in a pool of wet sawdust. Solly left the counter to add two presto logs to the furnace. She moved out of the way. Another customer showed indignation at Solly's remark.

Fish an' chips. Vinegar? Salt? One 'an six. Thank you. Yes, madam?'
'Could you tell me when the bioscope comes out?'
'Am I the blooming manager?'
'Half pas' ten, tonight,' the Muslim offered helpfully.
'Thank you. Can I stay here till then? It's raining outside.'
'I know it's blarrywell raining, but this is not a Salvation Army.'
'Please, baas!'
This caught Solly unawares. He had had his shop in that corner of District Six since most could remember and had been called a great many unsavoury things in the years. Solly didn't mind. But this caught him unawares. Please baas. This felt good. His imagination adjusted a black bow tie to an evening suit. Please, Baas.

'Okey, stay for a short while. But when 'e rain stops you go.'
She nodded dumbly and tried to make out the blurred name of the cinema opposite, through the misted windows.
'Waitin' for somebody?' Solly asked. No response.
'I ask if yer waitin' fer somebody?' The figure continued to stare.
'Oh go to hell,' said Solly, turning to another customer.
Through the rain blur Siena stared at nothing in particular. Dim visions of slippery wet cars. Honking and wheezing in the rain. Spluttering buses. Heavy, drowsy voices in the Grand Fish and Chips Palace. Her eyes traveled beyond the street and the water cascades of Table Mountain, beyond the winter of Cape Town to the summer of the Boland. Past the green grapelands of Stellenbosch and Paarl and the stuffy wheat district of Malmesbury to the sun and laughter of Teslaarsdal. A tired sun here. An uninterested sun. Now it seemed that the sun was weary of the physical effort of having to rise, to shing, to comfort, and to set.

Inside the nineteenth-century, gabled mission church she had first met Joseph. The church is still there, and beautiful, and the lamps suspended from the roof, polished and shining. It was in the flicker of the lamps that she had first become aware of him. He was visiting from Cape Town. She sang that night like she had never sung before. Her favourite psalm.

'Al ging ik ook in een dal der schaduw des doods ... Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ... der schaduw des doods.' And then he had looked at her. Everyone had looked at her, for she was good in solos.

'Ik zoude geen kwaad vreezen ... I will fear no evil.' And she had not feared but loved. Had loved him. Had sung for him. For the wide eyes, the yellow skin, the high cheekbones. She had sung for a creator who could create a man like Joseph. 'Want gij zijt met mij; Uw staf, die vertroosten mij.'

Those were black-and-white polka-dot nights when the moon did a golliwog cakewalk across a banjo-strung sky. Nights of sweet remembrances when he had whispered love to her and told her of Cape Town. She had giggled coyly at his obscenities. He lived in one of those streets off District Six, it sounded like Horsburg Lane, and was, he boasted, quite a one among the girls. She heard of Molly and Miena and Sophia and a sophisticated Charmaine, who was almost a schoolteacher and always spoke English. But he told her that he had only found love in Teslaarsdal. She wasn't sure whether to believe him. And then he had felt her richness and the moon darted behind a cloud.

The loud screeching of the train to Cape Town. Screeching loud enough to drown the protest of her family. The wrath of her father. The icy stares of Teslaarsdal matrons. Loud and confused screechings to drown her hysteria, her ecstasy. Drowned and confused in the roar of a thousand cars and a hundred thousand lights and a summer of carnival evenings that is Cape Town. Passion in a tiny room of District Six.

And the agony of the nights when he came home later and later and sometimes not at all. The waning of his passion and whispered names of others. Molly and Miena and Sophia. Charmaine. The helpless knowledge that he was slipping from her. Faster and Faster. Gather momentum.

'Not that I'm saying so but I only heard ...'
'Why don't you go to bioscope one night and see for yourself ...?'
'Marian's man is searching for Joseph ...' Searching for Joseph. Looking for Joseph. Knifing for Joseph. Joseph. Joseph. Joseph. Molly! Miena! Sophia! Names! Names! Names! Gossip. One-sided desire. Go to bioscope and see. See what? See why? When! Where!

And after he had been away a week she decided to see. Decided to go through the rain and stand in a sweating fish and chips shop owned by a blaspheming Jew. And wait for the cinema to come out.

The rain had stopped sobbing against the plate-glass window. A skin-soaking drizzle now set in. Continuous. Unending. Filming everything with dark depression. A shivering, weeping neon sign flickered convulsively on and off. A tired Solly shot a quick glance at a cheap alarm clock.

'Half pas' ten, bioscope out soon.'
Siena looked more intently through the misty screen. No movement whatsoever in the deserted cinema foyer.
'Time it was bloomingwell out.' Solly braced himself for the wave of after-show customers who would invade his Palace.
'Comin` out late tonight, missus.'
'Thank you, baas.'
Solly rubbed sweat out of his eyes and took in her neat and plain figure. Tired face but good legs. A few late stragglers catching colds in the streets. Wet and squally outside.

'Your man in bioscope, missus?'
She was intent on a khaki-uniformed usher struggling to open the door.
'Man in bioscope, missus?'
The cinema had to come out some time or other. An usher opening the door, adjusting the outside gate. Preparing for the crowds to pour out. Vomited and spilled out.

'Man in bioscope?'
No response.
'Oh, go to hell!'
They would be out now. Joseph would be out. She rushed for the door, throwing words of thanks to Solly.
'Close 'e blarry door!'
She never heard him. The drizzle had stopped. An unnatural calm hung over the empty foyer, over the deserted street. Over her empty heart. She took up her stand on the bottom step. Expectantly. Her heart pounding.

Then they came. Pouring, laughing, pushing, jostling. She stared with fierce intensity, but faces passed too fast. Laughing, roaring, gay. Wide-eyed, yellow-skinned, high cheekboned. Black, brown, ivory, yellow. Black-eyed, laughing-eyed, gay, bouncing. No Joseph. Palpitating heart that felt like bursting into a thousand pieces. If she should miss him. She found herself searching for the wrong face. Solly's face. Ridiculously searching for hard blue eyes and a sharp white skin in a sea of ebony and brown. Solly's face. Missing half a hundred faces and then again searching for the familiar high cheekbones. Solly. Joseph. Molly. Miena. Charmaine.

The drizzle restarted. Studying overcoats instead of faces. Longing for the pale shirt she had seen in the shop at Solitaire. A bargain at £1.5s. She had scraped and scrounged to buy it for him. A week's wages. Collecting her thoughts and continuing she search for Joseph. And then the thinning out of the crowd and the last few stragglers. The ushers shutting the iron gates. They might be shutting Joseph in. Herself out. Only the ushers left.

'Please, is Joseph inside?'
'Who's Joseph?'
'Is Joseph still inside?'
'Joseph who?'
They were teasing her. Laughing behind her back. Preventing her from finding him.
'Joseph is inside!' she shouted frenziedly.
'Look, merrim, it's raining cats an' dogs. Go home.'
Go home. To whom? To what? An empty room? An empty bed?
And then she was aware of the crowd on the corning. Maybe he was there. Running and peering into every face. Joseph. The crowd in the drizzle. Two battling figures. Joseph. Figures locked in struggle slithering in the wet gutter. Muck streaking down clothes through which wet bodies were silhouetted. Joseph. A blue shirt. And then she wiped the rain out of her eyes and saw him. Fighting for his life. Desperately kicking in the gutter. Joseph. The blast of a police whistle. A pickup van screeching to a stop.

'Please, sir, it wasn't him. They all ran away. Please, sir, he's Joseph. He done nothing. He done nothing, my baas. Please sir, he's my Joseph. Please, baas!'

"Maak dat jy weg kom. Get away. Voetsak!'
'Please, sir, it wasn't him. They ran away!'
Alone. An empty bed. An empty room.
Solly's Grand Fish and Chips Palace crowded out. People milling inside. Rain once more squalling and sobbing against the door and windows. Swollen gutters unable to cope with the giddy rush of water. Solly sweating to deal with the after-cinema rush.

Fish an' chips. Vinegar? Salt? One an' six. Thank you. Sorry, no fish. Wait five minutes. Chips on'y. vinegar? Ninepence. Tickey change. Thank you. Sorry, no fish. Five minutes time. Chips? Ninepence. Thank you. Solly paused for breath and stirred the fish.

'What's 'e trouble outside?'
'Real bioscope, Solly.'
'No man, outside!'
'I say, real bioscope.'
'What were 'e police doin'? Sorry, no fish yet, sir. Five minutes' time. What were 'e police doin'?
'A fight in 'e blooming rain.'
'Jeeesus, in 'e rain?'
'Who was fightinn'?
'Joseph an' somebody.'
'Ja, a fellow in Horsburg Lane.'
'Yes, I know Joseph. Always in trouble. Chucked him outta here a'reddy.
'Well, that chap.'
'An' who?'
'Police got them?'
'Got Joseph.'
'Why were 'ey fightin'? Fish in a minute, sir.'
'Over a dame.'
'You know Miena who works by Patel? Now she. Her boyfriend caught 'em.'
'In bioscope'
Solly chuckled deeply, suggestively.
'See that woman an' 'e police?'
'What woman?'
'One cryin' to 'e police. They say it's Joseph's girl from 'e country.'
'Joseph always got plenty dames from 'e town and country. F-I-S-H R-E-A-D-Y!!! Two pieces for you, sir? One an' six. Shilling changes. Fish an' chips? One an' six. Thank you. Fish on'y? Vinegar? Salt? Ninepence. Ticky change. Thank you. What you say about 'e woman?'

'They say Joseph's girl was crying to 'e police.'
'Oh, he got plenty 'e girls.'
'This one was living with him.'
'Oh, what she look like? Fish, sir?'
'Okey. Nice legs.'
'Hmmmmm,' said Solly, 'Hey, close 'e damn door. Oh, you again.' Siena came in. A momentary silence. Then a buzzing and whispering.
'Oh,' said Solly, nodding as someone whispered over the counter to him. 'I see. She was waiting here. Musta been waitin' for him.' A young girl in jeans giggled.

'Fish an' chips costs one an' six, madam.'
'Wasn't it one an' three before?
'Before the Boer war, madam. Price of fish go up. Potatoes go up an' you expect me to charge one an' three?'
'Why not?'
'Oh, go to hell! Next please!'
'Yes, that's 'e one, Solly.'
'Mmmm. Excuse me, madam' - turning to Siena - 'like some fish an' chips. Free of charge, never min' 'e money.'
'Thank you, my baas.'
The rain now sobbed wildly as the shop emptied, and Solly counted the cash in his till. Thousands of watery horses charging down the street. Rain drilling into cobbles and pavings. Miniature waterfalls down the sides of buildings. Blurred lights through unending streams. Siena listlessly holding the newspaper parcel of fish and chips.

'You can stay here till it clears up,' Said Solly.
She looked up tearfully.
Solly grinned, showing his yellow teeth. 'It's OK.'
A smile flickered across her face for a second.
'It's quite OK by me.'
She looked down and hesitated for a moment. The she struggled against the door. It yielded with a crash and the northwester howled into Solly's Palace.

'Close 'e blarry door!' he said grinning.
'Thank you, my baas,' she said as she shivered out into the rain.

Read the topic carefully and write a carefully structured response in the form of an academic essay. The essay should be between 1300 - 1500 words in length. Make sure that you support your argument by referring to the story where relevant and if necessary quoting from it.

Write an essay in which you examine the elements of a short story, such as plot, characterization, setting, dialogue, etc and how these elements are constructed in such a way by Rive so that they reflect the basic theme of love, betrayal and compassion.
OP landi 1 / 3  
Mar 17, 2007   #3
Oh! before I forget: "Baas" is the Afrikaans word for "Master" or "Boss"
EF_Team2 1 / 1,709  
Mar 17, 2007   #4

I think you've done an excellent job of describing the story and the symbolic references in it! (I particularly like your last metaphor about the knot!)

I have a few small editing suggestions:

While I like the way you begin with the quote about the rain, I think your next sentence could be stronger, perhaps like this: "Richard Rive uses graphic elements like the pouring rain to create atmosphere and a bond between the reader and the characters. The one element that reverberates throughout the essay is the rain."

"The silence of his character emphasizes the dislike one develops for [not in] him."

The naming of his character is also very ironical, because Joseph was the earthly father of Christ and thereforeit's a very religious name and doesn't really fit the image of a street rat. - It might be better to say something like "the religious overtone of the name is in marked contrast to Joseph's image as a street rat."

I'd remove the parentheses here: (Once again the rain is part of the character: Joseph desperately kicking in the swollen gutters, (Pg. 85) as if trying to get rid of something) and put a period at the end of the sentence.

Joseph and Siena met in a church which emphasizes [rather than adds up to] the irony and which leads to the question whether he really is such an obscure character. - I'm not sure I understand your point about the question of his obscurity.

The only other suggestion I would make is that you put a little more emphasis, especially toward the beginning of your essay, on the elements of a short story. The instructions emphasize this up front, so you want to make sure you are presenting them clearly. The assignment appears to be as much an analysis of the elements of a short story as an analysis of this story, and how "Rain" employs them.

I would not have guessed that English is not your first language. I think your writing is very good!

Please let me know if I can help you further.


Sarah, EssayForum.com
OP landi 1 / 3  
Mar 17, 2007   #5
Thank you very much, you are very helpful!!

My point that I'm trying to make about the obscurity of his character is the fact that he goes to church, so surely he can't be all THAT bad?? He is a street rat but he is still a Christian who goes to church.

(you see what I mean when I say I struggle to explain what I want to say in english...)

Thank you very much for your pointers, I really want to improve this essay alot because I got a terrible 48% for my previous essay and I really dont want to repeat that mark!!

I'm going to start again with the essay and try to put more emphasis on the elements of a short story (I don't really know what to write on this though, my creative braincells have been a little bit tired lately)

[...I would not have guessed that English is not your first language. I think your writing is very good!...] -
Thank you very much! I take that as a very big compliment because my English is really not up to standard! But I do tend to enjoy the subject "English Studies" much more than I do "Afrikaans en Nederlands" wich is my first language and very boring.

Again, thank you so much! I'm going to work on this piece some more during the week and will post an update on my atempt in improving it ;)

With Kindest Regards
EF_Team2 1 / 1,709  
Mar 18, 2007   #6
I'll look forward to reading it, Landi! :-)


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