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Holly Dixon

on 14 October 2016

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Transcript of secrets

Born in Belfast, Ireland on September 14th, 1942

Married Madeline and had four children after moving to Scotland.

Was a Medical Laboratory Technician

Studied at Queens University, Belfast

Taught English

Published 4 novels, and 5 collections of short stories

Currently a member of Aosdana

Bernard MacLaverty
The Plot
The protagonist of the story is at his Aunt Mary's death bed. He is a teenager now
He flashbacks to his childhood
As a boy, his Aunt allows him to sort through her postcards to find stamps for collection
While sorting, he comes across a stash of letters, which she forbade him to touch.
Intrigued, when Aunt Mary leaves for devotions, the boy begins opening the letters
Upon her return, she is furious to see the boy has betrayed her trust, and expels him from her room
As his aunt is dying, the boy grieves, hoping only that his aunt may have forgiven him
Significance of Plot
Majority of the plot occurs in a flash back
this allows the reader to see how the protagonist portrays the story as it occurred in the past
allows the reader to see how the major conflict has changed/affected the protagonist later in life
Historical Context
A short story by Bernard MacLaverty
"I was a young boy," says MacLaverty

"its a place worth exploring," he says regarding teen boys

His father died at 12 years old

He explored the relationships between Mother and daughter, then Aunt and Nephew

Exemplifies how easily trust can be broken
For example: The boy in the story reflects back on his relationship with his aunt as a child
We are able to see in present time how his past choices affected his relationship with his aunt later
we can conclude that even years down the road, he regrets his decisions
Point of View
Written in 3rd Person Limited
The speaker is the narrator
We have access to the boy (Aunt Mary's Nephew)
This point of view allows the reader to see the story from the character directly involved
This affects the mood, making it more dramatic. The focus is on the boy who being affected by the major conflict
The use of narrator eliminates bias. The narrator just tells the story without added thoughts/opinions
This makes the speaker(narrator) reliable
Especially because it is focused on a character directly involved, so we see these events how the truly happened
Character Analysis

Protagonist, not given a name
We see his age differ from a teenager to a child
The story follows his perspective
He is the one to find and read his Aunt's secret letters
We can tell he once had a strong relationship with his Aunt, as he feels guilty, even after her death
The Boy
Dynamic Character
-He has concrete actions which dictate the mood of the story
-He has the ability to change and grow. His curiosity and feelings of regret play a key role in the story
Aunt Mary
The boy's Aunt who lives a rather reserved life
Appears very dignified, pristine, and private
Her reaction to the boy reading her letter's was extreme
This exemplifies her true vulnerability and sensitivity toward her private life
Dynamic Character
-Aunt Mary plays a major role in the rising action , and is the reason behind the boy's emotions of curiosity, regret, etc.
Characteristic Quotes
1) "Her skin fresh, her hair white and waved and always well washed."
2)"'Don't be so inquisitive,' she'd say,"
Both quotes indicate Aunt Mary's personality
Character Analysis
Past lover of Aunt Mary, kept concealed in the letters
Through the letters, we learn he was a soldier in combat
Presumably he died from battle
Flat character
-However, John does cultivate the personality of Aunt Mary. She is a dignified character who feels affection making her vulnerable.
-This explains her secretive manor and reaction to the boy
The mother does not play a major role, although she is seemingly important
The mother represents what Aunt Mary wanted her family to know- Nothing.
She is oblivious and does not posses the same curiosity as her son.
The setting takes place in the house where the boy lives with his mother and Aunt
The story taking place in the house contributes to the theme of the story
The boy and his aunt had a very close relationship until he betrayed her
Even close knit families have secrets and can be destroyed
The fact that the Aunt kept her grudge for years while living under the same roof as the boy exemplifies her character
Flat character
-The mom herself does not have the ability to grow in the story, but she contributes to the overall theme by contrasting with her son
Tone & Style
point of view
The point of view changes to first person within the letters that the boy is reading
The letters are written from John's-Aunt Mary's secret lover at war- point of view
By reading the letters from John, are are able to gain insight into Aunt Mary's life
We can deduce that she fears vulnerability because she is so keen to hide these love letters
we can assume that she has suffered a great loss, which gives a reason for the way she acted towards the boy
The tone remains secretive and ambiguous throughout the story
The structure using flashbacks gives the reader a unique point of view that contributes to the tone
Starting with the boy at Aunt Mary's death bed with emotions of "sorrow and anger" creates mystery
The flashback allows us to see what led up to those emotions, with an added suspense because we already know something bad will happen
A tone of regret is apparent when go back to present time and see how said events effect the boy in the future
The genre is realistic fiction
Realistic fiction consists of stories that could have actually occurred to people in a believable setting
These stories resemble real life, and fictional characters within these stories react similarly to real people.
It is reasonable to believe that "secrets" could have occurred on real life.
it is likely that situations close to this have happened
Although Aunt Mary's reaction may have appeared extreme, it is true that situations between family member more grave than this go on in real life
Regret and grieving over a loved one
This theme is heavily shown at the beginning and end of the story
The boy particularly is grieving over his dying Aunt
Although aside from the pain of loosing a loved one, the boys feels guilt
He regrets having read his Aunt's letter's and ruining his relationship with her
He wished only that she might have forgiven him on her death bed
Curiosity kills the cat
The boy's feelings of regret are a direct result of his curiosity
He was unable to muster the will power to keep from reading his and letter's

Betraying trust ruins relationships
the boy's curiosity broke the trust of his Aunt
As a result, their relationship was soiled
His initial curiosity led to an act of betrayal, which essentially ruined a relationship
The irises represent Aunt Mary
They are dying and slowly withering- but are "clearing up after themselves"
This shows that although she is dying, Aunt Mary refuses to show any sign of weakness or allow anyone to pity her
Words like "delicate" and "neat" indicate the meticulous way in which she leads her life
The irises "scrolling inwards" represent her secretive nature
-This descriptive imagery accentuates her personality, making her character more memorable
The Ring
This is representative of aunt May's secretive persona
Her quickness to brush off the boy's question about the ring creates a mysterious mood
The ring itself is a secret, but it also represents the many other thing Aunt Mary is so adament on hiding

The crucifix
while on her death bed, Aunt Mary was unable to keep her fingers wrapped around the crucifix
This represents the idea that she has not in fact forgiven the boy
Thus God has not forgiven her
The mother referred to Aunt Mary as "pet"
This represents Aunt Mary's loss of dignity as she lays there dying, needing help
She displays her true vulnerability in this moment
The burning of the letters
After Aunt Mary's death, the mother begins burning her letter without even reading them
This symbolizes her secrets dying with her, never truly unfolded
Could also represent the boy having to let go of his guilt for reading these letters
significant quotes
"'...Some of the men are illiterate, others almost so. I know that they feel as much as we do, yet they do not have the words to express it. That is your job in the schoolroom to give us generations who can read and write well.'"
this is obviously important because it is the first letter we read from John
It reveals parts of Aunt Mary's life that she so firmly keeps from her family
We are able to become acquainted with sides of Aunt Mary's personality unbeknownst to her family
"'Don't be so inquisitive,' she'd say."
The reader is already able to sense that Aunt Mary leads a very seclusive. She does not like to be questioned or provide excess information
"'You are dirt,' she hissed, 'and will always be dirt. I shall remember this till the day I die.'"
This is a major turning point in the story, when the bond between the boy is broken
Her shocking outburst and comparison of the boy to something worthless exemplifies how scared she is of anyone discovering her secrets
"'Before she died- did she say anything?'
'Not that I know of - the poor thing was far too gone to speak, God rest her.'"
This displays how concerned the boy was with his aunt's forgiveness, even her final moments
It also shows how strong of a grudge his aunt had held, and how she had stuck true to her word
"She would sit with him on her knee, her arms around him and holding the page flat with her hand."
This shows the boy's relationship with his aunt before he has betrayed her trust
even the strongest bonds can be broken
In the first paragraph, the house where the boy lives is spoken of using the noun "house"
This becomes significant when we see his girlfriends house described using the word "home''
The use of the word "home" to describe his girlfriends house as opposed to describing his own this way, indicates that the place where he lives has become less welcoming and he feels more at home elsewhere
"On the table, was a cut-glass vase of irises, dying because she had been in bed for a week. He sat staring at them. They were withering from the tips inward, scrolling themselves delicately, brown and neat. Clearing up after themselves."
"She wore no jewellery except a cameo ring on the third finger of her right hand and, around her neck, a gold locket on a chain."
"...he would ask about the ring... 'Don't be so inquisitive,' she'd say"
"They had tried to wrap her fingers around a crucifix, but the kept loosening."
"Someone said about her teeth and his mother leaned over her and said, 'That's the pet,' and took the dentures out of her mouth."
"She took the keys from her pocket, opened the bureau, and began burning papers and card."
The Vietnam War
Letters were still a primary source of communication
Catholicism in the 70's was growing rapidly from 30,000 to 50Million followers
The Irish Civil War
Ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland

The very little dialogue used throughout the story shows the progressions of the boy's relationship with his aunt
"'Who is that?' he asked.
'Why? What do you think of her?'
'She's all right.'
'Do you think she is beautiful?' The boy nodded.
'That's me,' she said.
The boy was glad he had pleased her in return for the stamps
"'Mama,' he said.
'Did Aunt Mary say anything about me?'
'What do you mean?'
'Before she died- did she say anything?'
'Not that I know of- the poor thing was to far gone to speak. God rest her' She went on burning..."
Language & Style
Alot of imagery is used to describe Aunt Mary (Characteristics quotes) yet we know hardly anything about the appearance of the boy
This gives significance to Aunt Mary as a power/influence over the boy
excessive use of question marks are imperative because they show how inverted Aunt Mary is in response to these questions
Very morose
Word choice contributes widely to the changing mood-
"the noise, deep and guttural, that his aunt was making became
. It was as if she were

tried to slip the letter beck into its envelope..."
"her mouth was
with the words and her eyes
fiery rage
In the Letters
MacLaverty utilizes the letter's to depict Aunt Mary's past
The imagery in the first letter creates a light and lovely mood, lending itself to Aunt Mary's personality in the past
"Your long dark hair... your eyes that said so much without words... you lying beside me your hair undone..."
The shift in the mood of the letters symbolizes a change in Aunt Mary's personality, and possibly gives the reader a reason as to why she became more pristine and sheltered
"...I feel deeply that I must do something , must sacrifice something to make up for the horror of the past year..."
The Crucifix
works cited
Fernandes, Dave R. "An Interview With Bernard MacLaverty." Barcelona Review. N.p., 2006. Web. 28 Aug. 2016. http://www.barcelonareview.com/56/e_int.htm
Maclaverty. "Biography." Bernard MacLaverty . N.p., 2016. Web. Aug. 2016. http://www.bernardmaclaverty.com/biography
Year, By. "Historical Events in 1977 - OnThisDay.com." OnThisDay.com. N.p., 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2016. www.onthisday.com/events/date/1977
Davidson, By Jonathan. "First Monday Blog: Translating More, Translating Better." Home. N.p., 2011. Web. Aug. 2016. http://www.onthisday.com/events/date/1977

Ruby Smith and Holly Dixon
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