Time and physical setting

Safia Moore’s short story “That Summer” takes place in a town in Northern Ireland. The reference to “Belfast where the Troubles were” (ll. 70) suggests the events take place during the period of conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles (1960s -1990s).

The more exact time of the events is hinted through the reference to the severe heat weave which suggests the year of the events could be 1976, when there actually was a severe summer heatwave in Northern Ireland: “There was a steamy haze when you looked into the distance all right, but no mirages. Tar melted on the roads and stuck to the soles of our flip-flops” (ll. 3-4). But the time setting could also be mid-1960s when songs like “Shirley Bassey’s ‘Goldfinger’ ” (l. 28) appeared, and when it was fashionable to wear mini-dresses and beehives were popular as a hairstyle (l. 79).

The depiction of the weather also functions as a literary device which enhances the narrator’s prediction of someone dying. The weather becomes an omen of bad things to come: “It was late afternoon, yet the sun’s infernal rays felt like hundreds of hot pinpricks on the back of my neck” (ll. 34-35). Alternatively, the weather could be a symbol of the heavy atmosphere that dominated the community because they were suspicious of the Walsh family who were the only Catholics there.

During that summer, kids go missing and a woman dies in a car crash as her car “slammed into an oak tree in Old Hughie’s Wood” (l. 91). “Old Hughie’s Wood” (ll. 44-45) is mentioned previously in the story as a place of mystery because it is the place where someone unknown roams, a person the kids believe escaped from an asylum. Like the heat, the wood is a symbolic bad omen...

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