The Late Twentieth Century: 1960-2000 - Short Fiction

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Why does the author leave some characters unnamed in "Sandpiper" by Ahdaf Soueif?

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One of the interesting aspects of this great short story is the way in which the first person narrator does not reveal the name of her husband who she has now fallen out of love with. Although he is such a significant character, as he is the reason that she went to Egypt in the first place, he always is referred to in the third person alone, without a name ever being attached to him, as in the following quote:

I lean against the wall of my room and count: twelve years ago, I met him. Eight years ago, I married him. Six years ago, I gave birth to his child.

This short story is essentially the story of the narrator, who herself remains nameless, as she tries to coordinate her life and work out who she is and what she is doing. What makes it such a fascinating tale is that through the anonymity of the central characters a universality is achieved that allows the reader to identify and relate to some of the central themes themselves as the narrator describes the birth of her love and its decline and eventual death. Anonymity therefore is a strategy that Soueif is able to use to great effect as it allows him to identify certain timeless truths about what it is to be human that all readers--whether or not they have ever been to Egypt--can connect with.

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