Sandpiper by Ahdaf Soueif , Setting’s Role in Identity

*”What role does ‘place’ play in forming one’s identity? How does this affect the narrator in her life? ” The narrator’s life and her identity is shaped by this foreign land that she has moved to. Coming from a western world, as a woman, into an Arabic country, there are certain cultural perceptions that will ultimately alter her identity. The foreignness felt by the narrator is conveyed throughout the story. “My husband translated all this for me and said things to her which I have come to understand meant that tomorrow I would get used to their ways. This quote represents her inability to conform to the cultural and social acceptances. “If I tried to do the shopping the prices trebled. ” indicates that even the local merchants tried to take advantage of her ‘foreignness’ as she was incapable of altering herself to meet their demands or expectations. Perhaps the most apparent portrayal of the result of the setting on the narrator is the “fading love” experienced between her and her husband. The flashbacks present within the story, “My second summer here was the sixth of our love – and the last of our happiness. allude to the vast differences between their relationship at various times. This foreshadowing as well as an imminent doom, relationship wise, allows the reader to sense the regret and deep emotional state experienced by the narrator. The narrator was from Europe and her marriage to an Egyptian man has cross-cultural implications. Even though “the inferior status of women” was explained to her, she still went through with this marriage. One could presume that the narrator’s ethnocentrism was evident in assuming that her marriage would be more like a western one. “My foreignness, which had been so charming, began to irritate him. indicates that once he had returned home, the narrator’s inability to change her to her setting, her ‘place’ affected their relationship. This is backed by, “He was back home, and he needed someone he could be at home with, at home. ” indicates that the narrator herself is aware of the implication her inability to conform is having on her relationship. Lucy, is the daughter she gave birth to yet she refers to Lucy as ‘his daughter’ indicating that even though they are both her parents; the narrator identifies Lucy as belonging to him since she was born and raised in this foreign land. My treasure, my trap” allows the reader to notice that the narrator, this woman, wants to escape, to leave, but she is held back by the maternal love she has for her daughter. The place or setting is the biggest factor in this short story, it is a reason for the couple’s fading love and growing estranged. The setting places the narrator in a foreign land, whose cultural values have a negative impact on her causing her to fade from blissful love to saddening regret and hurt. Her identity is altered to that of a foreigner as perceived by those around her and this changes her mind set, perceiving herself differently, as a different person.

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