Commentary on “Centre Stage”

In my short story called Centre Stage, I have attempted to use the style of writing to James Joyce. Joyce wrote elliptically in his collection of short stories called “Dubliners”. He does this to suggest to the reader of what is happening but is never explicit with his suggestions so the reader is lead to make their own decision. Using that style, I wanted to make the reader use their imaginations as to what happens in some places of the story so everything is not just there upon the page for them, they can interpret the message and suggestions as and how they wish.

As in “An Encounter” in Joyce’s’ collection Dubliners, I manipulated what I allowed the reader to see and gain full access to. “An Encounter” uses a first person narrative but also conceals some things from the reader so I used a third person narrative to assist me leading the reader to a suggestion then concealing it by taking the omniscient narrator’s perspective of events away. In “An Encounter”, when the two boys are together with the man, the boy who is narrating tells the reader how he looked away at one point so the reader is left to think of what occurred in that space when he not only shield himself from what happened but the reader as well.

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“A rush of the crowd concealed whatever happened next.”

Joyce uses the technique of telling the story through the protagonist’s stream of consciousness thus allowing the reader to be able to feel a much more intimate connection with them. The use of this is less fairytale like than using an all present all seeing narrator but can equally be used to lead the reader and manipulate what they think. I chose to use a third person all seeing, all present narrator because it seems to be a reliable source that is telling the story. Everything is stated so assures the reader that it is a fact inside the fiction.

“Her father was very well respected”

The reader will trust the narrator as what is being told is told as fact. However, there are times when I wanted the reliability of the narrator to be questioned by the reader. These are also the points at which I conceal what the reader has access to. This also reinforces that the reader has to interpret the story themselves. By purposely taking something away from the reader at a point of tension, they can not be too reliant on the narrator for every detail of the story.

I have only hinted/ suggested in theses parts of the story I have not stated. This allows the reader to come to his or her own conclusion. Joyce also does this too. He is very suggestive but never actually states anything.

Throughout Joyce’s short stories, he uses imagery to reflect how he feels about his mother country, Ireland during a time when Catholicism was largely influential throughout the country. Although I have not used actual names of places, roads, areas etc as Joyce does in his stories, in the opening paragraph of my story, I have used colour connotation as how I feel about my home city of Liverpool. It is not obvious that this connotation is about Liverpool, and would only be known through reading this commentary. I have done this because I didn’t want my target reader to be city specific. To me it is a representation of Liverpool, but I wanted the reader to be able to make of the connotation what they will and make their own connection with the story.

“Trimmings of gold and filled with deep rouge”

The colour red for me is the signature colour of Liverpool because of one of its world famous football teams I feel Liverpool is quite a theatrical city so a lot of the red connotation is theatrical aspects. I have a keen interest in theatre so I wanted to incorporate this into the story.

I have mentioned no time period in this story but the whole way through I tried to use language that could set the story in the modern day or sometime in the past. I tried to use names that would be from a similar time period to when Joyce sets his stories and also some other things like the mention of gambling and earnings.

“He would take his weekly earnings and place numerous bets”

I think through doing this it would appeal more to a reader as again they are left to their own devices to think about the time. Also the story is not targeted at someone specific.

I have used alliteration throughout the story to try and portray an impact of the atmosphere at particular times. For example; when the main character goes on stage in her performance I wanted to create a quite tense atmosphere.

“Shrill sound of the actors all screaming in unison.”

I continued the harsh “s” sound throughout the sentence to depict a tense atmosphere maybe because of nerves before a performance or because of anticipation of a more sinister event.

“Pulled a prop pistol out of her jacket pocket”

This sounds quite sudden and more fitting to a performance as it sounds like something that would be said in a performance and on stage. It sounds like a stage direction and you could imagine the characters actions to be quite sudden also.

” A perfected smile slowly pulled itself across her face.”

This sentence is at the end of the first paragraph and up until then sounds quite a pleasant description and something that promises a nice nature to the story. However, this sentence introduces a more sinister feel. The fact that the smile had to pull itself on in order for it to work suggests something horrible that is being concealed underneath. The use of personification of the smile also indicates that the character needs something else to her in order to be a whole person in a way.

I used the name Mary for the character’s baby sister and this is a religious connotation. The name connotes innocence and purity which are both usually associated with infants. Also, when the baby is left by her mother it seems as if she has been turned away at her time of need just as the Virgin Mary was turned away from many inns when she was pregnant. Joyce uses religious connotations throughout his stories such as the characters of the priests, which feature in his stories.

At the end of the story, there is a twist. I made the twist so the reader is not aware whether the character is performing with the gun or if she’s not, whom she shoots. The reader doesn’t know whose hand has fallen with the curtain or whether it’s purely someone who dies in the performance.

“Red was soaked up by the deep rouge of the royal curtains”

The reader has to decide for themselves if this is blood, or the light from the red hue is dimming. Also it could be taken as a connotation for the emotion that the audience would have felt when watching the performance. Usually when an audience is engrossed in a tense play the temperature rises and is common with the whole audience so the red could also be symbolic of that heat.

Throughout this story, I have attempted to write elliptically in the style of Joyce. I have deliberately left the ending open to the reader as Joyce does so they are forced to ponder the outcome that could be argued any way.

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