The short story “Clara’s Day” by Penelope Lively is set in the mid-1980s in London (p. 51, l. 16) and follows a teenage girl named Clara who undresses at school, influenced by her mother’s disinterest in her. The events span over a couple of da…


Physical setting

The physical setting includes Clara’s school, the city, and Clara’s house.

The school is described in detail in the beginning of the story as Clara takes her clothes off in the assembly hall and walks the corridors naked to the form room:

The entrance lobby was empty. The floor was highly polished and she could see her own reflection, a foreshortened pink blur. There was a big bright modern painting on one wall and several comfortable chairs for waiting parents, arranged round an enormous rubber plant and ashtrays on chrome stalks.(...) She walked along the corridor to her form-room, which was also quite empty, with thick gold bars of sunlight falling on the desks... (p. 50, ll. 18-25)

The description of the school setting helps convey Clara’s perspective while suggesting that taking her clothes off was like an act of liberation.

The next important part of the physical setting is the headmistress’ office, which helps c…


Social setting

The social setting covers aspects related to school life, being a teenager, broken families, and parenthood.

School life is presented in the first half of the story. Clara goes to an all-girls school and most of her colleagues date boys from nearby boys’ school: “Most of the school had gone home but all those in Clara’s form who had boyfriends at St Benet’s which was practically everyone, were hanging around the bus station deliberately…” (p. 53, ll. 9-11)

This suggests the girls were at a dating age. However, Clara does not have a boyfriend. From the conversation with the headmistress, we find out that Clara has a few friends at school. At the same time, the fact that Clara first shocks the school by taking her clothes off but is later congratulated by her peers, suggests that the atmosphere at school was friendly.

The conversation between the headmistress and Clara reveals aspects about teacher-student relations. The woman wants to help Clara…

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