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Iain Crichton Smith's short story "The Telegram" - summary

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THE TELEGRAM Iain Crichton Smith's short story "The Telegram" tells of the escalating fear of two women, as the village elder draws ever closer to their houses, grasping a War Office telegram, which could contain news of the death of one of their sons. Iain Crichton Smith has two main themes in this story. Anyone, no matter how far they are from the front line can be affected by war and the only comfort that they can receive is given by someone who understands what they are going through. The author portrays these themes by his use of setting, plot development, character comparison and his effective surprise ending. However, prior to explaining these aspects in more detail I shall give a brief summary of the story. The story begins with two women, one fat and one thin, sitting drinking tea in the thin woman's house. They are keeping a wary eye on the village elder, who is drawing ever nearer to their houses, clutching a War Office Telegram which has the potential to contain news of the death of one of their sons. ...read more.


Iain Crichton Smith also uses plot development to help portray his themes. His themes are magnified as the elder progresses through the crofting village, drawing ever closer to the two increasingly fearful women. When the elder was first sighted both women became immediately frightened because he may have been coming to one of their houses with news of the death of one of their sons. As the elder progressed past Bessie's house, this meant that Roddy was safe. The fat woman, "had hoped that the elder would have turned in at Bessie's house." She didn't dislike Bessie or Roddy, she had just wanted her family to be safe. The elder continued along the road. He passed the Smith's, Tommy was safe. The women's emotions changed, they felt the need to apologise for past differences and make things right. The elder drew ever nearer. He made his way past the Stewarts, "the women looked at each other wildly." They now blamed the elder for what was going on, "He's proud of what he's doing." ...read more.


That anyone, no matter where or who they are can be caught up in war and made to suffer. The final aspect of the story which I am going to look at is the surprise ending. At the end of the story the telegram is not for the women, but for the elder himself. This is effective, because it emphasises the theme that war affects everyone caught up in it. I didn't expect the telegram to be for the elder, because he seemed as if he was the 'bad' character who brought the pain, rather than being the one to suffer, but he was made to suffer because he too became caught up in war. In conclusion, I thought that Iain Crichton Smith's use of setting, plot development, character comparison and surprise ending made me more aware of many aspects of war which I had previously never thought of - such as the effect of a far away war has on families who can only wait fearfully for news of their loved ones and how those suffering in this way can only be comforted by those who truly understand their suffering, having gone through it themselves. Elspeth Renfrew Marr College English ...read more.

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