Your Shoes by Michèle Roberts
In Your Shoes by Michèle Roberts we have the theme of grief, loss, blame, responsibility, sadness, innocence, communication, hope and control. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed woman, a mother, the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that the narrator is grieving a loss. A loss that we is discover is her daughter‘s, who is fifteen, disappearance after an argument with her father. What is interesting about the tone of the story is the fact that the narrator at times moves from the sense of loss and sadness to anger that her daughter is not home. If anything there are stages in the story, just as there are stages of grief, in whereby the narrator is not only angry with her daughter but she blames her daughter for the position she finds herself in. She knows that being homeless is difficult but the next minute the narrator is suggesting that her daughter is ungrateful. It is also possible that the narrator is living her life vicariously, through her daughter, such was her own unhappy relationship with her mother. Something the narrator might not want to repeat.
The sense of blame continues when the narrator distances herself from what her husband has said to their daughter. She insists that he did not mean it and that her daughter should not have taken it personally. If anything the narrator at times plays the role of victim and is thinking more about how she feels than how her daughter might feel. She shifts her focus constantly always moving back to how she feels and how the daughter is to blame for the actions she has taken. Which plays partly on the theme of responsibility. The narrator is suggesting, despite the sadness she feels, that her daughter is responsible for her actions. She has to come home but she must also face the consequences of her actions. Consequences that the narrator imagines involves grown men taking advantage of her daughter while she is homeless.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The narrator uses white a lot and this could suggest, as it often does in literature, that the narrator knows or at least feels as though her daughter is an innocent. She is not ready for the real world and in particular a life on the streets. The narrator’s constant shifting from her daughter to her own father might also be significant as it suggests that the narrator is trying to identify with her daughter. She wants to know how her daughter is thinking. The white shoes represent hope. A hope that the narrator clings to. The shoes themselves can also be seen to represent a new direction in life. A period of waiting then joy when the daughter comes home and takes a different path in life. The narrator’s mother is the opposite of the narrator but she may very well be like her granddaughter. Strong willed and not caring about what others might think of her. The clothes the narrator’s mother wore being an example of the carefree attitude of the grandmother.
The end of the story is interesting as the narrator starts to believe that her daughter is home. Such is the unbearable pain she is feeling. She imagines that everything is okay. Though she may also be willing her daughter home knowing that she is powerless to do anything to help her. This may be significant as the narrator appears to have lost control. Hoping her wishes can come true. However she may still be hopeful and is anticipating her daughters return but the reality is there is no sign of this. The daughter may be strong-willed and might not necessarily be in any rush to return home. Despite the difficulties she is facing. If anything the narrator may have to wait longer for her daughter to return home and just wishing for her to return is not good enough. Regardless of the narrator’s desires she may have to wait until the daughter decides the time is right to return home. She has had an argument with her father and his choice of words have been unwise. It could be some time before there is a resolution.