Characterisation of the narrator

The most important characters in the short story “Loose Change” by Andrea Levy are the narrator and Laylor. The rest of the characters mentioned in the short story are part of the social setting and relevant for the two main characters’ attitude towards them.

The first-person narrator of the short story is also an active character. According to her outer characterisation, she is a woman who lives in London whose grandmother immigrated to the UK from the Caribbean. She is also “a single mother with a nine-year-old”.

The description of her house suggests that she belongs to the middle-class, neither particularly rich or poor: “I have warm bedrooms, one of them empty.” 

Inner characterisation

The narrator’s inner characterisation is conveyed both directly (self-characterisation) and indirectly through her attitude and actions.

The narrator describes herself as a typical Londoner, namely as an unsociable person: “I AM NOT IN the habit of making friends of strangers. I'm a Londoner. Not even little grey-haired old ladies passing comment on the weather can shame a response from me.”

However, she also has moments of vulnerability, such as when she meets Laylor. The narrator dislikes that she has to interact with people, asking for loose change in the bathroom to buy tampons, but she has no other option.

Her initial description of Laylor suggests a rather ironical attitude towards the appearance of the girl: “She had wide black eyes and a round face with such a solid jaw line that she looked to have taken a gentle whack from Tom and Jerry's cartoon frying pan.” 

The narrator realises the girl is not British from her accent but assumes she might be from Spain. The fact that she goes after the girl to give her the money back (in banknotes) suggests a polite and responsible attitude: “I approached her about the money but she just said, ‘This is good picture.’ Was it my explanation left dangling or the fact that she liked the dreadful painting that caused my mouth to gape?” 

However, the narrator’s reaction to the girl talking about the painting suggests she finds the whole situation odd and uncomfortable. Even if the narrator is not a friendly person, Laylor’s attitude makes her more open, so she decides to show the girl the paintings that she considers worthwhile: “As I mentioned before, I'm not in the habit of making friends of strangers, but there was something about this girl.”; “I took this fraternisation as defeat but I had to introduce her to a better portrait.” 

The fact that the narrator knows about art and has an opinion about it suggests the woman is educated. However, when Laylor dislikes her choi...

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