The short story “The Chemist’s Assistant” by Moya Roddy has an exposition, a rising action, a climax, a falling action, and no resolution. Because a clear ending is missing, readers are left to work out the meaning and the ending of the short story by themselves.


The short story’s title is straightforward and clear, as it points to an important character in the story: Mussola, the new chemist’s assistant. Although he is not the main character in the story, the text focuses on the way the man influences the people he meets, particularly the young Colette.

At first, Colette hears about “the new arrival at the chemist” (l. 21), which makes her curious to meet the new employee.



In the exposition of the story, we are introduced to the main characters and the time setting:

It’s 1961 and the first man’s just walked in Space but where I live it might as well be the Dark Ages. You won’t believe this but my father keeps a cane hanging on the wall. On one side of the room is a picture of the Sacred Heart with eyes that follow you everywhere and on the other side, the cane. Like a big question mark saying: what have you done? (ll. 1-4)

Colette – the narrator of the story and the main character – lives with her parents and sister. Here, the intrigue is set:



In the rising action, both Colette and the readers find out about the existence of an intriguing person in town: “ ‘Have you seen the new arrival at the chemist?’ the woman-across-the-road asks, her voice all mysterious” (ll. 21-22).

Colette, who goes to the chemist’s on a regular basis with prescriptions for her mother who is “always ill” (l. 28), is intrigued and takes advantage of the occasion to go and see the new chemist’s assistant. She is shocked to meet Mussola, a black man:

When I walk into the chemist, I nearly drop dead. Behind the counter there’s a new man in a white coat. But that isn’t it. He’s black! I’ve never seen a black person except in films. And here’s one. In the flesh. He smiles at me. His eyeballs are really white just like in films. (ll. 35-37)



In the falling action, as Colette is on her way to the police station, she meets Mussola, who tells her that he was only questioned about his papers. Relieved, Colette tells him that she cannot meet him at the chemist’s the following day, as her mother is sick and she needs to stay home with her. Mussola is impressed and admits that he hopes his future daughter resembles Colette. The two of them part ways with a funny goodbye, which the man probably has learned from the girl:


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