This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Zolo” by S. Bhattacharya-Woodward. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: Zolo (2019)

Author: S. Bhattacharya-Woodward

Genre: Short story

Shaoni Bhattacharya-Woodward is a London-based journalist and writer. She won third prize in the 2020 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award for the short story collection Zolo and Other Stories. The short story “Zolo” won third prize in the 2019 Bristol Short Story Prize. 


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Social setting

The social setting mainly focuses on life in a lower-class neighborhood affected by poverty, addiction and neglect.

We see this both through the descriptions of the family’s apartment and the general neighborhood they live in, as mentioned above. Zolo’s mother seems to be an alcoholic (judging by the empty bottles piling up in the apartment), and she has further suffered some kind of emotional breakdown after Zakky’s father left, making her both unable and unwilling to take care of her children. She does not seem to have job, and probably lives on welfare (which is probably one of the main reason she is afraid of the visit from Social Security). However, it is hard to tell exactly how poor the mother is, as it turns out she does have the money to pay the electric bill after all, she just cannot be bothered to do so until she learns that Social Service is coming to check up on them...

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