The language of “Loose Change” by Andrea Levy is simple, straightforward and occasionally humorous. The choice of words reflects the setting of an art gallery with references to various portraits and artworks and the context of the short story—a conversation between two strangers who have just met.
Narrative passage and simple dialogue lines overlap. The narrator uses simple English when Laylor speaks to suggest her difficulty in expressing herself in English: “Then she said, ‘You look?’ She had an accent but I couldn't tell then where it was from; I thought maybe Spain.” (p. 1, ll. 27-29)
Humour is employed when the narrator presents the physical traits of Laylor and her brother, descriptions which also use imagery (the readers can picture the characters in their mind):
The most relevant language devices employed by the author are similes, repetitions, and rhetorical questions. They help the author convey vivid images about the characters, to create a rapport with the reader, and to convey deeper meanings.
Quite a number of different similes can be found in the text. These comparisons are connected to the way the characters look and act, and to the setting.
For instance, the cold is “like acid” (p. 1, l. 7) on the narrator’s skin, a simile used to convey the way the cold stings. When the narrator describes Laylor using the simile “the lines of black hair, like magnetised iron filings” (p. 1, ll. 17-18), she wants to convey the intensity of the hair colour and its curliness.
“Her gaze was as keen as a cat with string.” (p. 1, ll. 32-33) describes the way Laylor is looking at the narrator and suggests confusion.
Two important repetitions help the author convey the narrator’s opinion about herself. First, the narrator repeats that she is from London: “I'm a Londoner. Not even little grey-haired old ladies passing comment on the weather can shame a response from me. I'm a Londoner - aloof sweats from my pores.” (p. 1, ll. 1-3)
Several rhetorical questions convey the narrator’s worries and frustrations about meeting the girl:
“What did they think about the strange girl sitting opposite me? Nothing.” (p. 4, ll. 21-22)
“But why me? I had my son to think of. Why pick on a single mother with a nine-year-old? We haven't got the time.” (p. 4, ll. 30-31)
A few elements mentioned in the story also fulfil a symbolic role. The coins that Laylor has represent a loose change for the narrator, but they are all the girl’s money. Consequently, the coins function as a symbol of the gap between the rich and the poor—one person’s fortune is another’s loose change.