The Late Twentieth Century: 1960-2000 - Short Fiction Questions and Answers

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In "Sandpiper," how does the author use literary techniques to enhance his theme?

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One aspect that could be focused on is the way that descriptions and literary techniques are used to highlight the fragility of the position that the narrator finds herself in at the beginning of this short story, highlighting her instability and fragility as a woman who is trapped between two continents and desperately trying to construct her own identity in a world where she belongs neither to her home in England nor the country where she currently resides. Note how this is introduced through the following quote:

I used to sit in the curve and dig my fingers into the grainy, compact sand and feel it grow wetter as my fingers went deeper and deepter till the next rippling, frothing rush of white came and smudged the edges of the little burrow I had made. Its walls collapsed and I removed my hand, covered in wet clay, soon to revert to dry grains that I would easily brush away.

Symbolically it would be possible to read the narrator's efforts to build a burrow as a desire for some sort of permanence or stability. However, her setting and the elements make any sort of effort like this impossible. All of the narrator's efforts to try and construct some sort of home or sense of belonging for herself "revert to dry grains" that can easily be blown away by the wind. Here symbolism is used to highlight the precarious position that the narrator finds herself in and the sense of impermanence that has become part of her daily struggle.

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