The Comfort Of Stranger Literary Analysis

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This excerpt from The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan focuses on Robert, a retrospective narrator who reflects on when he told on his sisters for playing dress-up with their mother’s things. He spends the day alone with them and watches their looks transform through the use of clothes and makeup, which he sees as a fascinating phenomenon in which his sisters transform into women. He carefully pinpoints every single aspect of their process as well as their cleanup, and later exposes their actions to their father at dinner. Robert’s young age causes him to escalate both the act of dressing up as well as their father’s anticipated reaction. The descriptive narrative in the excerpt contributes to the generated tension and the real tension that…show more content…
At dinner Robert describes that he feels “[his] father staring at [him] … [so he] glance[s]” up at him (21). The contrast between the words “stare” and “glance” show that Robert is timid and small around his father and has to look up to him. Robert believes his father “looking through [his’ eyes, deep into [his] mind” (21-22). Robert’s interpretation contributes to the all-knowing view that he has of his father because he actually believes that he can see into his brain. Robert intensely describes the act of his father “slowly [putting] down his knife and fork [and chewing and swallowing] everything in his mouth.” (22-23). By distinguishing every single movement his father makes, Robert is able to slow down time which creates a sense of stress and nervous anticipation. When Robert’s father asks him what he was doing all afternoon, Robert admits that he “believed he knew everything, like God, [and that] he was testing [him] to find out if [he] was worthy enough to tell the truth [and that] there was no point in lying” (24-25). The godly view Robert has of his father shows that he used to worship him and saw him as all-knowing. Furthermore, Robert’s naivety and young age caused him to seek approval from his domineering father. As Robert tells on his sisters they first “laughed and denied what [he] was saying…but as [he] went on and on, they became silent” (28-29). His sisters first believed they could brush off Robert’s confession, however his observant nature caused him to expose them in such detail there was no way they could discount it. The real tension caused by the shift in mood depicts the distance between the family because of the serious atmosphere. The simple reaction Robert’s father gives causes him shame because his betrayal was not enough to achieve the approval of his dad. The
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