Sorry for the loss

8 August 2016

Sorry for the Loss analysis essay The aim of this piece of work is to complete an analysis and interpretation of Bridget Keehan’s short story “Sorry for the Loss”, centering on Keehan’s use of narrative techniques and the contrasts presented to the reader in the story. Keehan wrote the short story “Sorry for the Loss”, originally for a short story competition it became part of the anthology gathering said short stories in 2008. The story takes place in a prison supposedly in Great Britain. Here, the reader encounter Chaplain Evie, whom will have to go tell a lad named Victor, that his Nan has passed.

Evie is a teeny bit fearful towards the task as delivering bad news to prisoners have a habit of ending badly. The reader is following her down the prison as she makes her way to cell 22A in the E wing and during her walk there, the narrative paints the picture of a well functioning prison.

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Evie a chaplain and therefore has to deliver the news of passing and such to other Catholics, like Victor. As Evie reaches the E wing, she is allowed in by a guard the size of a defensive football player. She is allowed to enter Victor’s cell.

She studies his face and the reader learns of her discoveries: Sparkly eyes, olive skin, a welcoming grin. After Evie addresses him they first misunderstand each other. Victor believes she is there to tell him whether or not he got in to a course and ask her if he had gotten a spot on the course. She replies with “sorry”, which so happens to be the name of the course he wishes to attend. They go back and forth a bit, before Evie returns to the subject matter at hand. The dead Nan. As she tells Victor the news, he inhales sharply through his nose and peers out the cell’s window, where a pigeon sat and cooed.

He recites a line of poetry to Evie, who recognize it to be Shakespeare. King Lear, says Victor and goes about the extract he and the book club guy, Ron, is putting together. He mentions his role, who is a female, which in return brings him to think of his Nan. Suddenly he goes from talking of how female roles were men playing women, then he speaking of his Nan, who apparently smoked pot – blaming her abuse on her multiple sclerosis or “MS”, as Victor says himself. He choose to believe she would have been a pot head, even if she wasn’t ill. Evie informs Victor, that it’s not too late to pray for his Nan.

A statement she regrets even before finishing it, as it was certainly not what Victor needed to hear at the moment, which he confirms with a disdainful glare. Failing to start the conversation anew Evie tries to talk about something from the room, but can not for the life of her find something to speak of. She returns to her script: Would you like to come to the the chapel and light a candle and say a prayer for your Nan? Victor’s response is to ask for the Imam. Victor proceeds to speak about his neighboring cellmate, who fancies torturing the pigeons in his own window.

They agree on it being evil, but Evie cannot help but ponder this young, bright man, who can feel for the pigeons, yet not show emotion when informed of his grandmother’s passing. Nearing the end, the reader follows Evie to the fifth floor, where the inmates, who’ve had visits, are standing to wave goodbye to their loved ones. Evie is gripped by the sight and fakes a cold not to seem too soft on the officer, who let her in to the wing. He questions her about Victor and how he accepted his Nan’s death. Evie tells him fine and goes on to question the officer about Victor’s reason to be incarcerated.

A butterfly knife to the gut of one of the students from his school. This leads her to think about the irony behind the name of the blade. Butterfly. A word representing something so fragile and delicate placed on something mainly used for violence. I’ve taken the liberty of proposing that the story takes place in Great Britain for two reasons. One, the author is herself from Wales and second, Victor uses the expression “innit”1 which is British slang for “is it not”. Evie is the main character of the story. She is religious as we can deduct from her being a chaplain, while her own retrospective further informs us of her devoted piety.

She prays multiple times a day, if possible. Even though she’s worked in her position for over a year, it is possible that she has only recently been ordained, as the narrative mentions it being the first time, she is going to talk to someone alone as mentioned the first page: ”This will be the first death notice she has delivered on her own and she wants to get it right. ”2 which in turn implies a superior or former mentor. Victor is first considered to be Catholic, but turns out he’s keeping an open-mind and therefore is studying the Qur’an, as well as Shakespeare. This leaves the reader to deduct that here we have a intelligent, bright adult, who seek to expand his mind as well as his knowledge. His though facade doesn’t crack much during Evie’s visit, but a few examples of his kind heart comes to show, especially through the conversation about pigeons. As I mentioned earlier they’re having a conversation about Victor’s “neighbor”, who killed the birds for the fun of it. In reply to his question about it being evil or not, Evie tells him to love the sinner, but hate the sin. Humorously he replies:” Okay Miss, I’ll tell that to the pigeon. Hey, he’s gone!

Must have heard me talking ’bout his mate! ”3 It shows that he’s still a free spirit, finding joy and happiness in the little things, even after five years of imprisonment. The bit with the butterfly knife is interesting also and here Keehan couldn’t have put it better:”.. A butterfly knife(.. )the strangeness of how a thing so hard and sharp, designed to cut, slice and stab, could be named after something so delicate and easy to kill. ”4 Well put. It brings a certain degree of irony in to the story. Presents us with a light side to the dark and visa versa. This gives contrast to the story.

The contrasts in this story come to show in the way the prison is being portrayed. Usually prison stories are dark and violent, while this one is enlightening the reader’s happiness. Even though we’re presented with huge, gray stone walls there’s light to the dark. Regular life and freedom is just beyond the window, but yet so far away. One of the contrasts I like best is the one comparing heroin to prayer. Evie is thinking of her own praying experience, which makes her feel “.. comforted as though a fleece, gentle and soft, were enveloping her. ”5. This makes her think of the junkies, who state that heroin makes them feel “.. like being wrapped in cotton wool, ‘all warm and lovely’”. 6 I would also like to return to the butterfly knife, when speaking of contrasts. As I mentioned before Keehan has chosen a marvelous way of describing the irony in giving a deadly weapon such a lovely name. As to narrative techniques Miss Bridget Keehan starts the story using in medias res. The reader is turning to first page. BAM! Story is unfolding, giving us the scenario, but no background story and or information. As well as using a limited third-person narrator, who knows the feelings and thoughts of Evie, but not the people around her.

As it comes to show through this paragraph:”Evie blows her nose and coughs, trying to feign a cold in the hope the officer does not think her soft. He grins and pulls a smooth white tissue from his pocket and hands it to her. ” Here, the reader learns the thoughts behind Evie’s actions, but present no clue as to what the officer is thinking of her sobbing. So with this I have analyzed the story, brought to attention certain aspects of narrative techniques and given a thorough review of the story. You and I now have a much better understanding of the story ‘Sorry for the Loss’ by Bridget Keehan.

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Sorry for the loss. (2016, Aug 31). Retrieved May 21, 2019, from
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