Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Hospital exploits the confusion of her narrator to confuse action, metaphor, and meaning. This ambiguity permits her to mesh into the vaguely realistic tale of political intrigue a wide variety of concepts such as borders, art, reality, dreams, and family. Jean-Marc says that “at borders there is never an ordinary course of events,” and he proceeds to imagine how Felicity’s fate may support that idea. He believes Felicity would say that “even the dreams you dream up are dangerous and should never be written down without due regard for the consequences,” and he improvises around this theme as well. He wonders, for example, whether Felicity really did meet and aid a Salvdoran political refugee. He recalls that she is renowned for her imagination—another crossing of borders.

Hospital said, after the publication of Borderline, that a central concern of her fiction was “the behavior of people caught in an extreme and insoluble moral dilemma through no fault of their own—when whatever you do will be wrong.” Felicity cannot determine whom she should trust as she is shuttled around Boston from one clandestine Central American political organization or hideout to another. Nor can she know whether her choices will save or end the lives of Dolores and her mother and children in El Salvador.