The Late Twentieth Century: 1960-2000 - Short Fiction

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Identify some of the problems the protagonist faces because she is living in a foreign land in "Sandpiper" by Ahdaf Soueif.

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As a white woman living in Egypt, the speaker faces many different problems. She is part of a culture now that she does not entirely understand and will never fit into. This is exemplified in the way that she is unable to do so much as a white foreigner. Note what happened when she tried to plan meals and go shopping:

The meals I planned never worked out. Um Sabir cooked what was best in the market on that day. If I tried to do the shopping the prices trebled. I arranged the flowers, smoothed out the pleats in the curtains and presided over our dinner-parties.

The protagonist of this short story finds that she is unable to have the same role that she was used to having back in Britain. She cannot participate in the normal jobs that she was used to doing, and has to adapt to a very different role, such as acting as hostess.

In addition, the protagonist clearly finds the endless heat of Egypt very trying. Note how she tries to cope with this by dreaming of typical wet, British weather:

I press wet palms to my face and picture grey slate roofs wet with rain. I picture trees; trees that rustle in the wind and when the rain has stopped, release fresh showers of droplets from their leaves.

The protagonist has to endure weather and conditions that are very different from her home country and she finds this very difficult to cope with, as this quote explains.

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