Themes and message

Distorted reality and appearances

The beginning of the story “The Red Line” by Charles Higson presents in detail the unnamed man’s almost ritualistic hair removal process (p. 62, ll. 1-14). This process, as well as the fact that he washes his hair twice a day, suggest an obsession with cleanliness or purity. The theme of distorted reality is, therefore, suggested by the man’s obsessive behaviour, which translates into a rejection of natural things like body hair and physical flaws, and into the great effort he makes to keep up a certain physical appearance.

Another sign that the man lives in a distorted reality is the way he describes his karaoke routine, the way others react to it, and his unrealistic dreams of visiting the home of American singer Bob Seger (p. 63, ll. 10-19). After he learns that his favourite karaoke night is cancelled, and he cannot find another pub where he can sing Bob Seger’s songs, the man has a mental breakdown. His reality is distorted even further as he begins to imagine that London is being corrupted by other people and sees it as his duty to correct this: “Ugly people. Dirty, hairy people (…) He had to do something about the stubble which was spreading all over London” (p. 66, ll. 34-38). In the Tube carriage, he thinks that Denise and Berto are laughing at him and perceives Berto as one of those people corrupting London. He projects this onto ...

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