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"Andrina" Critical Essay.

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"Andrina" Critical Essay Jaime Smith A short story in which an element of mystery plays an important part is "Andrina" by George Mackay Brown, a celebrated author from Orkney. "Andrina" like many of his other works has a spiritual aspect with common themes such as the cycle of the seasons, betrayal, hope and regeneration. "Andrina" is set in Orkney, a perfect location for this tale because of its mystical atmosphere. The haunting, spiritual atmosphere created through the language Geroge Mackay Brown uses adds to the overall effect of the story. In the short story an old seaman receives regular visits from a young lady, Andrina. Then one day she does not come. The same day the narrator falls ill. He soon recovers and goes in search of Andrina whom he has missed during his illness. He can find no one in the village who knows anything about her. This increases the mystery surrounding her character. It is not until the end of the story that he discovers that Andrina is the ghost of his grand-daughter. This news come in a letter which had remained unopened since his illness. The short story has a very unusual narrative structure with an embedded narrative surrounded by an outer frame narrative. The embedded narrative takes us back in time and introduces us to the sea captains past. He narrates the main body of the story in past tense. ...read more.


This particular device is continued throughout the next part of the story, as his condition deteriorates. During his illness and time alone he reflects over experiences which are painful for him to remember. One such painful memory haunts him that night - "experienced, over again, some of the dull sordid events of my life, one certain episode was repeated again and again like an ancient gramophone record being put on time after time and a rusty needle scuttling over worn wax" This extended image is very effective in suggesting the depth of his remorse, therefore, adding to the mystery as the reader wants to know what he is so upset by. After the captain has had time to reflect he feels "ghosts" of his past have been resurrected. Eventually sleep prevails but the ghosts remain. Following on from his illness, the old sea captain goes in search of his missing visitor, in the village. The development of the story adds to the suspense which is slowly building up throughout his search. It is not until he begins to enquire about his visitor that he realises there are questions he never felt the need to ask Andrina. At the time of her visits the captain was content with her company and did not require any more information about her; "It was sufficient that she came every evening, soon after sunset, and performed her quiet ministrations, and then lingered a while." ...read more.


The story reaches a climax when the old captain finds an envelope " lying on the table, unopened the letter had been delivered three mornings ago". The letter had come from Sigrid telling the old Sea captain about the death of his grand-daughter, Andrina. The post mark on the envelope indicated it had been sent in October, months before Andrina visited him. In the contents of the letter Sigrid says " she would have been a lamp in your winter, too". Ironically this is exactly what Andrina was for the old man, as her regular visits brightened up his otherwise dull life. Following on from this revelation one of George Mackay Browns most favoured themes, regeneration, provides a fitting resolution to the short story. The news which came in the letter allows the old sea captain to let go of his past and appreciated the physical elements of his life; "where she was dust, a new time was brightening earth and sea". This line demonstrates how the old sea captain is letting go of the troubles which haunt him and the relationship with Andrina. This is very effective in giving resolution both to the old seaman and the reader. The short story has a suitably ambiguous ending as we do not know if Andrina's presence was real or merely a figment of the lonely captains imagination. Nevertheless she certainly brightened up his winter. In conclusion, the development of the mystery surrounding Andrina in the narrative creates suspense and makes Mackay Brown's short story extremely satisfying. He successfully maintains a ghostly and mysterious atmosphere in this unnerving short story. ...read more.

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