All the little loved ones

Helpful resources for the revision of "All the little loved ones" by Dilys Rose

How does Dilys Rose bring to life the character and dilemma facing the woman in the shorty story “All the little loved ones”? And what does Dilys Rose want us to think about /experience / appreciate through the story (the central concern of the text)?

 

Summary:

The story is set in the present day and concerns three main characters: a married woman with children, her husband of several years and a man she has recently met in a swing park. Her meeting this man, who is also married with children,  has complicated her relationship with her husband. The story climaxes with the woman on a “precipice” wondering what to do. The story ends unresolved leaving it open to the reader to form their own conclusion.

 

1. Title: “All the little loved ones”

  • “all”suggests the story is universal applying to all people in her situation. This is reinforced by the fact that the three main characters are all un named and should be seen as archetypes.
  • “little loved ones”the word choice points us towards the fact that children and a parent’s love and responsibility towards them will be the central concern of the text. This is reinforced by the fact that the expression is repeated throughout the story and is also to be found at the very end of the story.

 

2. Dramatic Monologue / Persona / (the story is told in person narrative).

In order to explore the issue of faithfulness and the dilemmas facing marriages which may be breaking down Dilys Rose takes on the persona of a mother with children and makes her alive to the reader through her use of first person narrative.

“ I love my kids. My husband too…”

  • Colloquial “kids”suggests the woman is characterised as an everyday person.
  • Sentence structurehints at the growing separation between herself and her husband. She places herself and her children in one short sentence and her husband in another.
  • The use of dramatic monologue creates the conversational tone of the story, as if the woman were confiding in us. At first we don’t question her as a reliable narrator but the twist forces us to re-evaluate her story.
  • The story is told in first person narrative from the point of view of the wife
  • It is internal dialogue as she is thinking and speaking to herself
  • The story is a dramatic monologue – a story told in one voice where the character reveals something about themselves At first we believe her story, but later we begin to question it. She is not a reliable narrator.
  • The story is mainly told in present tense – this gives the story immediacy, it’s as if events are happening and unfolding as we read.

 

3. Characterisation (of the mother)

“I love my kids. My husband too, though sometimes he asks me whether I do.” (see above)

 

“I am feeling it, the flush, the rush of blood, the sensation of, yes, swooning. It comes in waves. Does it show?”

  • Word choice“flush” and “rush” suggest that the woman finds the experience exciting
  • sensationword choice conveys the idea that old emotions are coming alive again
  • swooning” word choice has connotations of fainting, teenage romances
  • The question continues the idea of the conversational tone, that the woman is confiding in us

 

“Me? I sling mud, with affection.”

  • Word choice “sling” and “affection”draw out the ambivalence in the mother, her mixed feelings towards her husband, or it may suggest that that their relationship has died and that she can only express negative feelings - sugar coated with “affection”

 

4. Imagery (about their communication)

 

“It’s like he’s speaking an ancient, forgotten language”

  • Just as people can no longer understand what ancient languages mean so too the woman and her husband are no longer able to understand each other. This helps us to understand that once their relationship and communication was alive and meaningful but now it’s dead and gone.

 

“A conversation must be kept moving , hopping across the surface of our lives like a smooth flat stone.”

  • Just as a skimming stone will eventually lose its momentum and sink so too the communication between the wife and her husband has become intermittent and they are finding themselves talking to each other less and less.

 

“A strange, suspicious little duet would begin in the midst of preparing the dinner and I know where this edgy, halting tune leads, I know the notes by heart.”

  • The woman compares her conversation with her husband to a duet, however rather than singing in harmony together the tune is “edgy” and “halting” suggesting that they are not in harmony at all. The expression “I know the notes by heart” suggests that their little battles of words have become the norm and she is becoming bored with it.

 

 

5. Imagery (about her emotional state)

“It’s like I’ve been turned to marble or ice”

  • Just as marble is hard and ice is cold so too when the husband asks his questions the wife finds herself changing from someone warm and loving to someone who is cold and unyielding.

 

6. Symbolism

(a) Symbols which point to the woman’s ambivalence (blood and swing)

“Blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh etc, delivered into our hands in the usual way, a slithering mess of blood and slime and wonder, another tiny miracle.”

  • Word choice “miracle” makes the children seem special
  • Word choice “etc” “in the usual way” and “another” makes the children seem ordinary
  • “Blood of our blood” suggests a strong bond between her and the children
  • “slithering mess of blood” suggests that this blood relationship has “messed up” her life
  • Notice her ambivalence (two contrasting attitudes) – link this to the idea of a ‘swing’

 

“Pushing a swing, watching a little one arcing away and rushing back to your hands, it’s natural to talk to another parent.”

  • Just as a swing moves away when you push it and comes back again, so too the wife is ambivalent about whether she should bring her marriage and kids close to her or push them away.

(b) Symbols which point to the decay and deterioration in her marriage (daffodil and faded blue shirt)

“a daffodil, still bright in its fluted centre but crisp and brown at the edges”

  • Just as the early signs of dying in a daffodil are its brown edges so too the wife’s marriage is about to die. However the marriage is “still bright in its fluted centre” suggesting that there is still the possibility of life.

“his favourite shirt – washed-out blue with pearly buttons – last years Christmas present from me”

  • This suggests that he cares for her, he chooses to wear a gift from her
  • Just as the colour from the shirt has been washed out so too the love in their marriage has faded out over the years.
  • But the expression “pearly buttons” suggests there is still something valuable in the marriage

(c) Symbols which point to the dangerous situation the woman is in (precipice)

“I’m approaching a precipice. Each day I’m drawn nearer to the edge. I look only at the view. I avoid looking at the drop but I know what’s there.”

  • Just as a precipice is a very dangerous place to be, the wife knows that she is coming close to a point where she will threaten the safety of her marriage and children. It is ironic that the real danger to the children’s happiness is their mother. The woman returns to this image at the end of the story:

“Millions have stood on the ledge, and tested their balance, their common sense, strength of will, they have reckoned up the cost, in mess and misery, have wondered whether below the netless drop a large tree with spread branches awaits to cushion their fall.”

  • Just as a large tree with spread branches awaits to cushion the fall of someone who walks over a ledge or precipice so too the wife wonders if there is a “cushion” for her – perhaps the other man.

 

7. Twist

“We visit the park – even in the rain, to watch the wind shaking the trees and tossing cherry blossoms on to the grass, the joggers and the dog walkers lapping the flat green part – to be near each other.”

  • The wife puts the admission, the real reason why she goes to the park, at the end of the list.
  • The reader begins to wonder how long they have been together. They have a routine:

“We ask … We meet …. We stand … We visit”

  • The repetition of “we” suggests an established togetherness
  • It changes our sympathy away from the wife and towards the husband
  • At the moment it seems innocent but she is tempted, hence the metaphor of the “precipice”

 

8. An effective Conclusion?

The story finishes on a cliffhanger – an appropriate conclusion for a story where one of the central ideas is “precipice”. The ending seems open – leaving the reader able to come to their own decision. However the word choice:

  • “Tree – rock – fall – all”
  •  Suggests the mother is making an allusion to a famous lullaby. By alluding to it is she also suggesting the ending?

Rock-a-bye, baby
In the treetop
When the wind blows
The cradle will rock
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall
And down will come baby
Cradle and all

  • Note how the story begins with the title “All the little loved ones” and finishes with the same words. It’s a full circle suggesting that the wife’s dilemma goes round and round in the same way.
  • It also suggests that the main reason for staying faithful is the children.
  • Perhaps this is Dilys Roses’ point?

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