In Christie Mc Laren's Suitcase lady, why does the suitcase lady talk about "drapes and carpets, castles and kings"  "Out of her past come a few scraps: a mother named Savaria; the child of a...

In Christie Mc Laren's Suitcase lady, why does the suitcase lady talk about "drapes and carpets, castles and kings" 

"Out of her past come a few scraps: a mother named Savaria; the child of a poor family in Montreal; a brief marriage when she was 20; a son in Toronto who is now 40. "We never got along well because I didn't bring him up. I was too poor. He never call me mama."

She looks out the window. She is 60 years old.

With her words she spins herself a cocoon. She talks about drapes and carpets, castles and kings.  She often lapses into French. She lets her tea get cold. Her hands are big, rough, farmer's hands. How she ended up in the doughnut shop remains a mystery, maybe even to her."

Asked on by kale123

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

To me, the key to this is where it says that she uses these words to "spin herself a cocoon."  The words are things that she is using to insulate herself from the reality of what her life is.

This woman is homeless, of course.  This means her life is surely very hard.  So she talks of things that are really from another life altogether.  By talking about those things, she is able to distract herself from the problems that go along with her real life.

Does that make sense to you given your reading of this piece?

durbanville's profile pic

durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In Christie Mc Laren's Suitcase Lady the reader gets a glimpse of the hardship suffered by this unnamed homeless person who lives in poverty and is unable to rise above her circumstances. At best, she can pretend. The woman represents many others like her whose stories will remain untold and whose lives revolve around "shopping bags...and scrounging for food." Even though she has a child, she has never been called "mama" and has never known the joys of motherhood because she is destitute and never brought her son up. 

Now, at sixty years old, she has little to show for her life and is alienated and alone. She needs to dream, to imagine and to pretend because otherwise she will be unable to survive. She tells the narrator a few snippets of her past and the "cocoon" she spins is her protection from the real world which has only heartache and disappointment in store for her. There is no source of comfort in her life.

"Drapes and carpets, castles, and kings" reveal the neglect she has suffered. The use of alliteration (stressing the first sound of the word, in this case the c or k sound) emphasizes the point. Curtains and carpets are found in many average homes and yet to this woman they belong in the domain of the wealthy, even royalty. She can lose her real self in her imaginings and forget, even momentarily that she will never enjoy those things because she will never rise to such exalted status as a king. It is significant that she knows that even something as normal as curtains and carpets will elude her and it is unlikely that she will even rise to to a sufficient social standard as to look forward to the comfort that carpets and curtains represent. 

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