The repetition of the phrase ‘& since’ draws attention to Clare’s focus on the death of her sister, and how time is now divided into before or after the accident, with the accident dominating her experience. However this broken and unfinished clause also allows her the space to explore her sadness and work through her experience of grief. In keeping with the account being written in the tone of a teenage girl, there are grammatical errors throughout. There is no punctuation, and the whole of the text is in lower-case, save for when Clare refers to herself as ‘I’; highlighting the personal nature of the account. The lack of punctuation and heavy use of ampersands shows the overwhelming nature of Clare’s grief and allows the chapter to build towards a climax. This also mirrors the fall of Sara and the speed with which she fell.
The account shows us Clare’s concern with dates and numbers. Usually these order our experience of time and make it consistent and measurable, however, this is destabilised in Clare’s experience of grief where this coherence is lost. This instrument of coherence and ordering also serves to intensify the loss that Clare feels, as she is obsessed with how old her sister would have been and her date of birth. Gradually her explanation of how old Sara would have been degenerates into just numbers and no words, so it loses meaning. This highlights the fact that the usual markers that we use to understand and order time are lost in the overwhelming experience of death.
The chapter is narrated in the present tense, which gives it a sense of immediacy and shows the reader the process of Clare moving through her grief and eventually being able to come to an understanding of her situation. The present tense also crystallises the moment of grief, affording yet more poignancy. This immediacy of the account allows for greater emotional depth and is more moving than if Clare were to explain how she felt by looking back on the experience with hindsight, which would be a less relatable account.
Smith uses metaphor to explore death and how Clare experiences the death of her sister. Sara’s death is described as being like ‘reading the book & the story suddenly stopping’, it seems that here Smith is engaging with the theme of endings, and death as the end of a narrative. However, by the end of the narrative Clare becomes aware that time does continue in spite of death, and life resumes despite a seemingly impossible situation. Clare also describes her relief in a metaphorical sense, suggesting that relief is spare time sent in the post like a postcard. She uses the common phrase ‘saw this … and thought of you’ but in an unconventional setting, as time is intangible and impossible to donate to another person – however this metaphor works extremely well in highlighting the relief that Clare takes from feeling ‘something else’ other than abject grief.
Clare also examines the conventional condolences that are offered to the grieving and explores their inadequacy in a comical but also moving way. Clare’s account literalises these euphemistic ways of talking about death, suggesting their absurd nature. This is shown specifically in relation to ‘loss’, where Clare highlights that this is not a sufficient description for the way that she feels in the wake of her sister’s death. Sara is permanently gone and cannot be found, cannot be called back over the intercom speakers.
Through Clare’s account we witness the gradual process by which she deals with the death of her sister, managing to forget about her grief at first for a couple of minutes and then for increasingly long periods of time (until presumably it will lose its dominance in her thoughts). Despite the story stopping for Sara, time carries on and eventually Clare is able to accept her grief and resume life, remembering that she can take pleasure in things such as the smell and taste of breakfast. She is no longer completely focused on ‘the usual end thing’, but is able to overcome death in the living of life.
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