Friday, April 19, 2019

Commentary - What's the Ending to Nadine Gordimer's "An Intruder" All About?

Nadine Gordimer -- An Intruder

That Dratted ... errm ... Enigmatic Ending

          So I said to myself one day, “When are you going to sit down and deal with what you fear the most – not being able to come up with a plausible interpretation for the “incident” or ending to Gordimer’s short story “An Intruder” that wouldn’t make readers laugh their socks off?”
          That dratted ending. It escaped me the first time I read the story, then again the second and third time, till I finally got pen and paper and jotted down all the facts in a manner that Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot would never have had the idiocy to acquiesce to, given their superior powers of recollection. At any rate, seeing the facts before me in note form did make certain words stand out above all else, enabling me to draw conclusions about what Gordimer may have intended for the reader to deduce. Let’s see what those facts are:

  • both Marie and Seago were sleeping  a sleep like death
    • her ‘death’ was induced by exhaustion 
    • his ‘death’ was induced by drink 
  • the incident was witnessed (after having taken place) at 8 am on a Sunday morning 
    • Marie is woken up by the ringing of church bells 
  • Marie first notices “the incident” when she enters the kitchen 
    • she should have noticed it sooner when she bumps into a chair “askew in the passage” 
    • what she sees is 
      • flour strewn all over 
      • syrup thrown at the walls 
      • soap powder, milk, cocoa, salad oil were “upset over everything” 
      • the white muslin curtains she had put up were ripped to shreds 
  • she goes to wake James
    • “He lay there asleep, as she had lain, as they both had lain while this – Thing – happened. While Someone. Something. In the flat with them.” 
  • both go through each room of the house 
    • kitchen 
    • living room 
    • “dark hole of a bathroom” 
  • what the living room has to offer by way of clues 
    • the sofa’s soft cushions have a pile  -- “an offering” -- on each of them 
      • slime of contraceptive jelly + her hair combings from the wastepaper basket in the bedroom 
      • toothpaste + razor blades 
      • mucous of half-rotted vegetable matter = peelings, tea leaves, dregs (from the dustbin) 
  • what the bathroom has to offer 
    • cosmetics spilt 
    • underwear Marie “had left there was arranged in an obscene collage with intimate objects of toilet” 
    • two cotton gowns were in the bathtub, bottle of liqueur had been emptied on them 
  • “it was … the components of their daily existence and its symbols.” 
  • “… there could be a rational explanation for what had happened, a malicious and wicked intruder who had scrawled contempt on the passionate rites of their intimacy, smeared filth on the cosy contemporary home-making of the living room, and made rags of the rose silk cover and the white muslin curtains.” 
  •  “For of course he didn’t remember a thing until he woke and found she had flung herself on him terrified.”

The key, in my view, is found in the last clue I noted. Gordimer has already told us that Marie has noticed how “James, her husband, did not appear drunk during these sessions [the nights spent out at the nightclubs], but next day he would remember nothing of what he had said or done the night before.” Anything he does during those outings he seems to forget, though to what extent he is faking oblivion is questionable. The encounter with Colin from Basutoland which Gordimer describes immediately after we read about Seago’s forgetfulness is strategically placed so as to allow the reader to link the two and conclude that James selectively chooses to be in the dark when it suits him. In other words, if we look back at the incident at the end of the story, the logical conclusion would be....

Read the full 3,330-word post by clicking on the image below.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Hot Off The Press

B2 Sample Writing 16 (Transactional Letter / Email - Summer Language School)

  The following sample letter has been written so that exam candidates for a B2 level English examination (FCE now called First for School...

And Now For Something Completely Different ...