Structure

The short story “Loose Change” by Andrea Levy presents a single event in the life of a female narrator—her encounter with an immigrant girl who needs a place to sleep. The story is structured following a traditional plot line with a few characters. However, the end of the story introduces a plot twist—instead of helping the girl, the narrator abandons her.

Title

The title of the short story, “Loose Change” is an expression which refers to a small amount of coins. When people need such coins they usually ask others to exchange their banknotes by asking if they “have any loose change”.

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Beginning

The short story begins with a straightforward exposition in which the narrator conveys a self-characterisation: “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.” (p. 1, ll. 1-3)

The opening lines function as a foreshadowing element. It is clear that the narrator will make an exception to her habit of not talking to strangers. Furthermore, the emphasis on being...

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Middle

The rising action presents the narrator’s interactions with the girl. Because the girl leaves the bathroom before the narrator can buy something in the shop to get some change for the girl, the narrator feels obliged to find her and give her the money. She sees her looking at a painting, and they have an odd conversation: “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?” (p. 2, ll. 3-5)

The narrator tries to show the girl other paintings that she finds better, but the girl disagrees with her. Trying to release herself of the financial obligation, the narrator offers to buy the girl a cup of tea.

The situation becomes awkward and tense when the girl pours sugar spilt on the table into her tea, and when her brother comes and they fight in their language: “Some crumbs, a tiny scrap of paper and a curly black hair floated on the surface of her drink. I felt sick as she put the cup back to her mouth.” (p. 3, ll. 17-19);

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Ending

The climax of the story turns out to be misleading, as the narrator doesn’t follow through on her resolve. In the falling action, Laylor needs to wipe her nose and the narrator offers to get her another tissue:

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