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."
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.