Time and physical setting

The short story “Say You” by Sara Collins is set on an island between Cuba and the US in the 1980s, as indicated by the reference to the song “Say You, Say Me” (ll.1- 2) released by Lionel Richie in 1986. The events take place during a summer when Cuban refugees arrive on the island.

The physical setting is the island where the events take place: “The story of any island is basically the story of men, arriving.” (l. 17). The island might be a place in the Bahamas, which is a country made up of several islands between Cuba and the US.

The island is described in detail at the beginning of the story:

It was mid-August, the height of hurricane season, the mangroves were swollen with rain, the mosquitoes buzzed mercilessly at our ears as we fell asleep, even on the evenings when the control planes droned overhead, or the pesticide truck heehawed past, spraying the bushes and fields. (ll. 47-49)

Important elements of the physical setting are the sailboats on which the Cuban immigrants arrive, the refugee camp, and the lighthouse on the shore. The boats are symbolic of the men’s temporary stay: “They’d arrived in July, some in sailboats measled with paint, others in swollen shark coloured rafts crawling along the corrugated shoreline. They were headed for Miami.” (ll. 12-13).

The island setting is also described at the beach, near a lighthouse where the characters would spend their time: “…to make out at the lighthouse, to climb along the ironshore and wait for water to splash them through the blowholes; some days she piled the rest of us in and we drove to the cliffs to watch the waves come in…” (ll. 61-63).

Finally, the last part of the story takes place at the refugee camp, surrounded by fences, which suggests the separation between Abel and Jewel. The contrast between the island’s idyllic beaches and the unpleasant immigrant camp is also a symbol of the difference between fantasy and reality and between Jewel’s unrealistic dreams for the future and Abel’s realistic understanding of his responsibilities to his family inside the camp:

We parked in the dusty lot just outside the fence, which was littered with government trucks and tarpaulin shelters where immigration officers sat counting forms. Row after row of khaki tents; the only colour from the clothes fluttering like bright flags and the listless garbage stacked at the gate. We smelled barbecued beef and the raw tang of several hundred humans being human.  (ll. 88-91)

Social setting

The social setting is the most important part of the setting, as it conveys details about life in the 1980s on the island (presumably part of the Bahamas) and in Cuba, exploring issues related to immigration and the relationships between locals and immigrants. It also deals with issues of gender.

The collective character of the girls

The collective character of the girls is represe...

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