Storm Petrel by Romesh Gunesekera
In Storm Petrel by Romesh Gunesekera we have the theme of aspirations, conflict, memories, enthusiasm, failure and friendship. Taken from his Monkfish Moon collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed man and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Gunesekera may be exploring the theme of aspirations and dreams. CK’s head is full of ideas for the future. He wants to return to Sri Lanka and become a guest house owner. He has everything planned and he believes he will be home again permanently within six months. However there is a conflict that is rising in Sri Lanka that CK knows nothing about. The Sri Lankan government will soon be fighting a civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) in the region that CK wants to start his new enterprise in. This may be significant as Gunesekera may be highlighting that even from a distance (London) a person’s life can be changed permanently by the actions of others (in Sri Lanka).
In reality CK will be going nowhere but he doesn’t know that yet nor does the narrator when he is speaking to CK. The narrator also appears to be an open character, pleasant and nice. He does not scorn upon or show any jealousy towards CK when CK tells him about his aspirations. If anything there is a sense that two young friends have bumped into one another on the street. One like CK who is overflowing with positivity and the little more relaxed narrator. There is no ill will between either character and both wish the best for each other. CK also draws a lot on his personal travels and memories when he relays his story to the narrator. He is a wealth of information and seems to be putting this knowledge to good use. Even the reader hopes that things work out for the good natured CK. Though as mentioned the civil war in Sri Lanka will disturb CK’s goals and aspirations.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The bookshop that the narrator is on his way to holds a wealth of information, as books do. This suggests that the narrator is a well-read man, not only of books but newspapers too. It is for this reason he manages to relay the conflict in Sri Lanka to the reader. The travel agency could represent the obvious. Travel. However we know that there will be no travelling to Sri Lanka for CK. In reality his venture to the travel shop will result in nothing but failure and a halt to his dreams and aspirations. The good health that CK is in could also symbolically mirror how healthy a state Sri Lanka is in before the arrival of civil war.
The end of the story is interesting as CK having held the conversation with the narrator for so long. Loses none of his enthusiasm for his venture. Though some critics might suggest that CK has been selfish by doing all the talking. This is not the case. The narrator likes CK and is delighted to listen to him talking, particularly when he is talking so positively. One point that might be important is the fact that through CK the reader gets to learn of the thousands of young people who are travelling to Sri Lanka and India. It is as though society, particularly young society, is seeking an alternative adventure. Very much like CK is. CK is a clerk in London and it gets him down knowing that he has dreams and he is not trying to fulfil them. That’s why CK’s guest house is so important to him. He gets a chance to live his dreams. The final lines in the story which describes the sun slipping behind a cloud and shadows rushed the ground is important. It is as though the sun is not going to shine on CK’s dream. CK craning his neck as though he was looking for the sea does offer some optimism. The reader left to think that maybe CK will succeed in another dream or goal. CK is not made for the hustle and bustle of city life.