Sorry for the loss
While a butterfly is free to spread its beautiful wings, many people suffer in captivity, and can only dream about the world outside. The yearning for freedom is depicted in Bridget Keehan’s short story; ‘Sorry for the Loss’ from 2008, where we meet the chaplain Evie and the young criminal Victor. The story begins when Evie has to tell Victor that his Nan is dead, but the situation turns out different than expected. Evie is a chaplain who has worked in the prison for over a year (p. 1 l. 18), but she doesn’t really like being there.
The atmosphere in the prison intimidates her and she feels uncomfortable being there because of all the noises. That’s why she treasures whenever the prisoners are out, and she has some quiet time on her own. She is very religious and she likes to use her quiet time to meditate and pray (p. 2, l. 32). She is a good girl who behaves properly and follows the Bible. Even though the prisoners have done bad things, she is kind to everyone, and tries to understand how the prisoners feel. She even tries to imagine Jesus as being one of the prisoners (p. 2, l. 40), and this just shows that she is very good at putting herself in other people’s shoes. In the prison she also helps to run the Enhanced Thinking Skills (p. 3, l. 91). She is a kind, genuine person, and she is very nervous when she has to tell Victor that his Nan is dead, because she is scared that he’ll get upset (p. 2, l. 55). Evie is fragile, but she is also a very loving and caring person, and as soon as she sees the young Victor, she imagines him being her son (p. 3, l. 75). Victor is very young, so her loving heart immediately feels sorry for him.
Victor is described as a young, good-looking boy (p. 3, l. 75). He has olive skin, sparkling eyes and a big, white smile with a glint of gold filling (p. 4, l. 136). He is a catholic, but he’s not very practicing. Instead he likes to explore new things and religions. He has been in prison for five years (p. 3, l. 78), but although he has been there for a long time, he is different than the other prisoners. He has a more of a kind look to him, and he certainly doesn’t look like a boy who would hurt, let alone, kill someone.
While the other prisoners’ cells are filled with family photographs or pictures of women, Victor’s cell is completely empty (p. 4, l. 114). He seems quite immature, but even though he seems young and not clever, he has spent a lot of his time in prison studying; ‘Yeah I know ETS. Done it in my last nick’ (p. 3, l. 90). He is also a part of the book club, and he even refers to the tragedy; ‘King Lear’ by Shakespeare when he talks to Evie. Though, he has a quite interesting interpretation of the Shakespeare tragedy, because he imagines Cordelia as being a stoned pot-head (p. 3, l. 110). He seems like a very kindhearted person, and he behaves well when Evie visits him. He shows emotions for the pigeons outside his window, but he doesn’t seem to care about his Nan’s death, and this is the first sign, the reader gets, which shows that the genuine Victor may not be as genuine after all. The story is told by a 3. person omniscient narrator, but we hear the story from Evie’s point of view. Her thoughts are often described; ‘Eve considers, it’s a wonder the thick stone walls that separate this world from the one outside contain the noise’ (p. 1, l. 28), so it’s almost like the story is told by Evie herself. The narrator doesn’t comment upon the text, which also makes it feel like we hear the story through Evie and her thoughts. There is a great use of figurative langue, which makes the text come alive, since the narrator uses sentences such as; ‘Bellowed from the testosterone voices that have been trained like tenors to reach the gods’ (p. 1, l. 23) and; ‘The office, bulkily built like a ruby player’ (p. 2, l. 62). The characters, especially Victor, are also described very detailed, which makes the reader feel like we almost know the characters in person.
Through the narrative technique we get an idea of who the characters are. For example through the use of direct speech – this shows how some of the characters are well-educated, while others aren’t. Evie, for example, has correct grammar when she speaks, which indicates that she is well-educated. Victor, on the other hand, has bad grammar; ’No I’m safe ta, would you? ’ (p. 3, l. 93), ‘Done it in my last nick’. (p. 3, l. 91) and; ‘but that’s evil innit? ’ (p. 4, l. 132), so it’s obvious that he spend most of his life in prison instead of attending school. The narrator also uses symbols in the story.
One of the symbols is the pigeons that live close to Victor’s window. A pigeon is a bird and a symbol of freedom, but in the story, Victor’s ‘neighbor’ treats the pigeons very badly. ‘.. he feeds the pigeons crumbs so they get to trust him, then he catches one and traps it’ (p. 4,l. 128). This shows the fragility of freedom, and the prisoners know, more than anyone, that freedom can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye. The window is also used as a symbol for the prisoners’ dream about freedom, because when they look outside the window they see; ‘‘a slice of road leading out of town’ (p. 2, l. 53). A window is an object which allows you to look outside and see different parts of the world, and that’s exactly what the prisoners do – they look outside and dream about a life on the other side of the bars. One of the main symbols, though, is the butterfly knife. The butterfly knife symbolizes Victor, and it shows how beauty can hide something cruel. What you thought was pretty and genuine may end up causing great damage. That is what the whole story is about, and that is exactly what the butterfly knife symbolizes. The author Bridget Keehan has used many contrasts in her short story.
One of the main contrasts is the contrast between the prisoners and the life outside the prison. The prisoners are trapped in the prison and they have no freedom. That’s why the prisoners always stand by the big window where they can have a view on the world outside. The contrast between free and captured is also shown through the office workers on the street. When the prisoners look outside the window, they can see the office workers on their way to work. The office workers are free men who have jobs and lives, while the prisoners don’t really have any purposes in their lives, since they are trapped behind the bars.
The prisoners can only look at the office workers with envious eyes (p. 2, l. 50). The outside vs. inside world is also depicted, since the prison is described as something non-beautiful; ‘.. with its banging of gates and scraping of keys in locks and the clatter of each prisoner’s metal food tray’ (p. 1, l. 22), while nature outside is describe as beautiful; ‘It’s a bright, blue-sky day, and as the sun streams in from the large solitary window and warms her face’ (p. 2, l. 35). Another contrast is between Evie and the environment of the prison. Evie is very religious, and she follows the rules.
She is a good girl and has never tried heroin (p. 2, l. 38), or done anything bad. Evie is described as a very fragile and feminine person, which is completely opposite to the prison’s harsh environment. The prison is described as something that’s very loud and cold, and it is surrounded by thick stone walls. Besides that, the prison is full of big men and ‘testosterone voices’ (p. 1, l. 25), so Evie’s gentle and feminine character doesn’t really fit in. Evie is also a contrast to the prisoners, since Evie follow God’s rules, while many of the prisoners have committed murder or rape etc.
which is completely against the catholic believes. One of the most special contrasts in the story is Victor. Victor is a contrast himself, because his outer beauty camouflages his inner murderer. In the beginning, the reader almost feels sorry for Victor, because he seems so genuine, but once the officer tells Evie that Victor is a murderer, we realize that it’s just a facade. Victor is a contrast, because he is both good and bad, and that’s why the butterfly knife symbolizes him – it looks beautiful and harmless, but it can cause extreme damages.
The main theme in this short story is the yearning for freedom, but the text also depicts the question about trust and sincerity. It puts focus on the fact that everyone has their own secrets, whether it shows or not. The text is quite relevant today, because we live in a world full of crime, and the prisons are filled with people who have done something bad. It makes us wonder – do we take freedom for granted? Bridget Keehan’s; ‘Sorry for the Loss’ tells a fascinating story about the meeting between freedom and captivity, and with her use of symbols and contrasts, she makes it clear that even beautiful things have dark sides.