Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 574
Pat Barker's assertive, acerbic prose draws readers quickly into the lives of the seven women at the center of the novel. Each chapter introduces readers to the perspective of a different woman living in the Union Street area of a city in northeastern England. The women differ in age and life experience, though all of them are impacted by the decline of the industrialized working class in England. As Barker introduces us to each of these women, their families, their friends, and their particular circumstances, she offers an opportunity for readers to access the world of Union Street from a variety of different entry points.
The dialogue in Union Street signals strongly the different personalities present among these women and how they orient themselves to the world around them. Barker's ability to write dialogue with such specificity and nuance, varying from chapter to chapter, provides a more holistic view of each of these women. It is an achievement worth recognizing, as female characters do not always get to exist as dynamic, differentiated characters. Through her use of dialogue, paired with visceral, unapologetic narration, Barker allows each of these women to live on the page, fully embodied and articulated.
Because this embodiment and articulation is achieved through her adept use of dialogue where the dialect is distinct, the diction is particular, and the cadence is natural, there are many quotations that may be deemed important or emblematic of the novel's power to represent strong, dynamic, and nuanced female characters. When looking for impactful quotations from this novel, exchanges between these women and their families are the most literarily ripe passages.
Highlighting how differently and vividly Pat Barker allows these female characters to exist is best done by contrasting two characters whose life experiences are remarkably different: Kelly Brown, who is eleven, and Alice Bell, who is in her seventies. The two quotations below show how differently Barker writes each of these women.
The following exchange between Kelly and her older sister, Linda, demonstrates how Kelly is dealing with life circumstances far beyond her preteen age but that she still manages to bring a youthful...
(The entire section contains 574 words.)
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