The language employed in the short story “The Chemist’s Assistant” by Moya Roddy is easy to understand, mostly because the story is told from the point of view of a child, Colette. The narrative is combined with dialogue, which gives authenticity to the text because it reflects Colette’s simple way of speaking and her childish attitude, like in the following example:
‘What’s your name?’ the black man asks. (…) ‘I am Mussola.’
(…) ‘Lecky,’ I smile back, adding ‘Colette.’
(…) ‘Don’t you shake hands in this country?’
‘Only if you’re older.’ (ll. 38-46)
Furthermore, note that Colette uses local phrases such as “ye” instead of “you” or “da” instead of “dad”, adding to the text’s authenticity.
Imagery is present mostly when Colette talks about the chemist’s shop, which becomes a place that she likes. In the following quotation, you can find visual and sensory imagery – related to sight and the sense of smell:
I never mind going to the chemist, the smell is gorgeous. Perfume and powder. It’s full of things too. On the counter there’s rows of plastic nails, painted, and fake lipsticks with real ones underneath. But it’s the bottles of perfume I love. There’s loads, different colours too, green, red, frosted, some have stoppers like eyedroppers only fancier with snakes or hearts carved on them. (ll. 30-33)
Similes and metaphors
Similes are also employed in the text. For example, the cane with which Colette’s father beats her is “like a big question mark saying: what have you done?” (ll. 3-4). This simile shows that Colette’s father chooses to use violence to punish his daughter rather than communicating with her.
When she thinks about beautiful women in films, Colette thinks that they are “like Goddesses” (l. 14), a simile which reflects Colette’s fascination with beauty and her knowledge that all the women that live in her town are plain.
We also recommend you to focus on the symbols used in the text. First, the cane that Colette’s father uses to beat her is a symbol of violence and punishment. The man does not communicate with his daughter and never asks her why she stole money. Instead, she beats her and punishes her.
At the same time, the picture with the “Sacred Heart” (l. 3) – a Roman Catholic devotion – symbolises faith. Ironically, the picture with the Sacred Heart is connected to the cane and only instils fear in Colette.
Angela, the beautiful woman whom Colette’s mother used to envy, is a symbol of beauty and something different.