Structure

Hanif Kureishi’s short story, “The Penis”, is structured in two parts. Each part follows a different character. The first follows Alfie, a man who wakes up and realises that he has brought home a penis. The second part follows the rightful owner of the reproductive organ as he tries to get his penis back and eventually succeeds.

Consequently, we can talk about a parallel plot, with two climaxes, one for each part of the story. When the narration follows Alfie, a smaller climax is reached when Alfie throws the penis over the bridge and flees. The resolution of this narrative is inserted in the plot following Doug, when Alfie and Doug meet and Alfie offers to give Doug a free haircut as a way to apologise for taking and then throwing away the penis. The climax of Doug’s side of the plot is discussed below.

The part of the narration that follows Doug can be described as a quest plot. The character spends his time searching for his penis.

Title

The title of the short story is intriguing because it is almost shockingly blunt - “The Penis”. On reading the story, we realise that the title is not figurative but literal. The plot concerns a personified penis which gets detached from its owner. The penis ends up in another man’s possession who disposes of it. Most of the story subsequently follows the owner of the penis in his quest to get his reproductive organ back. In this surrealist short story, the penis is a symbol of the short story’s theme, of sexual objectification. The penis is so important for his owner, that it develops a personality of its own, becoming more important than the owner himself.

Beginning

The short story begins with an exposition in which we are introduced to the first plot, surrounding one of the main characters, Alfie: “Alfie was ha...

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