Time is a funny thing, it can be squished up into five minutes or dragged out for centuries and writers are the master manipulators of it. Short stories concentrates on giving us a snap shot into a world, whether that is a moment between two people or action over a period of time, sharply defined and closely focused. But what the writer also tells us in these stories is about the time they lived in and how people viewed their world.
I am looking at three short stories, by kiwi female writers, to see how they tell us of the time they are writing from. The first is The Yard Broom by Charlotte Grimshaw is a modern story of transition. The Glass House, by J. C. Sturm, which although not published until 2006 speaks of an early time and was probably written sometime between the late 1950s to the mid 1970s, and Katherine Mansfield’s The Garden Party written in 1921, a time of post war economic surge.
The Yard Broom is a grim and stark story of a young woman’s path to adulthood. It is in first person and the tone is depressed, giving us an idea of the woman’s lack of hope for a future. The language is cut back and modern, giving only giving bare facts, this shown in the way she describes herself.
“I was nineteen, with blond hair and blue eyes. I wore a filthy sleeveless reflector jacket over shorts and a T-shirt, and heavy boots with short, thick socks.”
There are social issues that affect a large part of the population. Poverty and a social underclass along with its associated issues of child neglect, domestic violence and drugs - mainly marijuana and P.
It also looks at how a person with a good life can turn to crime and deceit. This is explored as she develops a friendship with a pastor she meets. He spends a lot of time telling her she is the maker of her own destiny – with God’s help, while he becomes involved in a family custody battle and ends up kidnapping his grandson from the child’s father, who has custody, and he is not above trying to use emotional blackmail to keep the child a secret.
“The police are looking for him. If you don’t send him back I’m going to tell someone.’
He faced me. ‘Angela. Think about what you’re saying. You want to make trouble for your friends?’
This story also looks at Angela’s past; the lost of a parent, drug abuse by her remaining parent, and the hopelessness of it all. There is also the idea that Australia is a place of milk and honey to the emotionally dispossessed in New Zealand, only to find out there is also the reality of this dream which is poverty, just the same as at home.
Each of the issues faced are looked at from a very modern place, how there is a lack of trust, no one really opens up to each other, there is a skimming over the top type friendships rather than deep emotional ties developed in the close families of the earlier writers.
It also shows how woman have changed, become more powerful in the world, using social prejudices about men to gain the upper hand.
“My eyes were bloodshot and one of...