Analysis

In the next few pages, we will give you some points and ideas to help you with the analysis of the short story “Reunion” by Peter Bradshaw.

Your exam question asks you to focus on the structure of the short story “Reunion” by Peter Bradshaw. The story is a Postmodernist text that does not follow a conventional plot line. Using foreshadowing elements, first-person narration, and a fragmented timeline (events are not chronological), the author builds up to the surprising plot twist.

We will also present the most important characters in the story, focusing especially on Elliot and the women who have played a role in his life.

We will examine the time, physical, and social setting of the story, looking at aspects such as childhood in the 1970s and romantic relationships and breakups.

We will discuss the first-person narrator and how the way Elliot tells the story influences the plot.

Finally, we will explore the language used by Peter Bradshaw, considering elements like choice of words, imagery, similes, metaphors, and symbols.

Structure and title

Title

The short story by Peter Bradshaw is titled “Reunion”, which initially suggests that some characters are going to meet again after some time. The title is intriguing because it does not reveal anything about what this reunion is about or whether it is planned or accidental. Reading the short story, we discover that the title is a hint to the plot twist. The story leads us to believe that the main character, Elliot, meets his childhood love, Lucy, at a conference: “Was it...? Could it actually be...? There was nothing else for it. I was going to have to talk to her.” (l. 33).

The characters recognise each other, and the woman has the same surname as Lucy – Venables:

‘Do you remember me, Elliot?’ she asked. 
‘Of course,’ I replied. (l. 44-45)

However, the end of the story reveals that the woman Elliot met is actually Lucy’s younger sister, Chloë, whom Elliot injured with a dart in their childhood:

‘Oh Elliot!’  she gasped. ‘Call me by my name. Say my name.’ 
At that moment I swept up her hair, to kiss her neck, and this revealed her ear, cut and disfigured by my dart. In the next instant, I complied with her request:   
‘Chloë…’ (ll. 116-119)

At a symbolical level, we can also interpret the title as a metaphor for a symbolical reunion with childhood, as seeing Chloë brings back vivid memories of Elliot’s childhood and innocent first love. This is symbolised by Elliot nostalgically ordering a Corona lemonade at the end.

Beginning

The short story begins directly in the present moment, with a first-person narrator describing his setting: “So I’m sitting here in the hotel foyer on one of the big squashy sofas.” (l. 1).

Peter Bradshaw introduces readers to the story by creating a narrative hook, as we find out something special happened to the character-narrator the previous night, but we don’t know what: “This gives me a bit of time to think. And after the events of the last twenty-four hours I’ve been trying to work something out.” (ll. 3-4).

A foreshadowing element gives the first hint of what happened, when the narrator announces he will talk about love: “I’ve been in love three times during my life.” (l. 5). Another attention-grabbing element is that the narrator seems to be addressing readers or a particular reader directly: “I’ll quickly tell you about the breakup in each case.” (l. 9).

Two brief backstories which jump back in time give readers some background information about Elliot and his previous relationships. We find out he used to be married and had an affair and also that both women left him: “…even before she’d sat down – that she had fallen in love with somebody else, and they were moving in together…” (ll. 13-14); “Michiko just asked me, really quietly, where I would be living when we got back to London.” (l. 21).

Middle

The middle of the story combines events that happened the night before with events that took place in Elliot’s childhood, fragmenting the narrative line.

The previous night, Elliot met a woman whom we are led to believe is Lucy Venables, his childhood love. Their meeting is preceded by increasing tension: “My strange feeling got stranger the nearer I got. Was it...? Could it actually be...? There was nothing else for it. I was going to have to talk to her.” (ll. 31-33).

The fact that the woman has the same surname as Lucy and the characters recognise each other makes us believe that Elliot has met Lucy: “Her name tag read: ‘Dr Venables’. (...) ‘Elliot! Oh my God! Oh my God! Is it you? Elliot!’ ” (ll. 35-38). However, the fact that Elliot never calls her by her first name is the first foreshadowing element hinting that the woman is not actually Lucy.

Meeting the woman prompts flashbacks from Elliot's childhood. Through flashback, we find out ho...

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