Norman Levine’s Something happened here basically revolves around the author’s visit to a small town in France and it gives a detailing of how he spent all the time he was visiting. Though he does not say why he chose to particularly the seaside town of Dieppe, it is easier for the readers to see that he may have visited because of the connection that his country has with the town.
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Canadian soldiers had died on the shores of the sea where the small town stands. More than anything else, Levine’s story is about the people he associated with at Dieppe especially Georges, an old widower with whom they strike an unlikely friendship. To a great extent, Levine presents the inhabitants of Dieppe as friendly and warm and he capitalizes on every opportunity to describe the ones he meets in great detail.
For instance, his encounter with Georges though unplanned ends up creating a great friendship and the two spend virtually all the time that he (Norman) is in Dieppe together. Georges shows him around and even takes him to his house even though the two don’t know each other very well. The Madame who ran the hotel where Levine was staying was also very friendly and this is manifested by how she took time to appreciate his nationality and introduce him to her daughter’s friend who was Canadian (Levine 73).
The story to a great extent is based on death. From the way it is told, it tends to suggest the cosmopolitan nature of the town and it is surroundings particularly because individuals from varied nationalities are buried in the town. First, we have the Canadian soldiers who passed on while struggling to get to the land.
This has been confirmed by the sign at the beach which urges people to have fun while keeping in mind that some people had to lose their lives for them to enjoy the beach (Levine 73). George’s brother in law was a Polish Jew and he as well presumably died at Dieppe (Levine 70).
Georges also details how thirty people died as a result of flash floods when the mayor failed to heed the call of the old priest to evacuate the people who lived at the plateau. The water managed to take away the lives of a substantial number of people as well as cause extensive destruction in just thirty minutes (Levine 68). Earlier in the story, we are made aware of the death of Colette, George’s wife and later we are told that she was buried in Paris (Levine 68).
The visit to the cemetery reveals that various generations of members from George’s family have been buried within the town and this is revealed at the cemetery where we are made aware that the first de Rostaing was born 1799 (Levine 68). Though we are not told when he died, it is clear that he was buried in the cemetery. The author also tells us of the members of the Resistance movement who lost their lives during the 1914-1918 World War (Levine 68).
The presence of the numerous war memorials reveals that a lot of people must have been killed in the region in this war. The Second World War must also have had its impact as it is acknowledged by the ‘occasional tombstone’ as Levine puts it. The author also informs us that the impressionist paintings at George’s house were made by his (George’s) uncle who was dead (Levine 70). The author also humorously tells us of the entry of the Russians to the town.
From how the events unfold, the Russians must have stayed there for a substantial amount of time and there is the possibility that they died and were buried in the land (Levine 69). Finally, the author confirms his view of Dieppe as a land of death when he declares that the white-grey stone sticking up from between the cliffs was symbolic of the numerous graves on the land (Levine 74-75).
The story also speaks about the ironies of life. This is especially when Georges analyzes the people seated at two different tables adjacent to them (Levine 71). On one table is a plump couple and on the other are two skinny young men both mute and deaf. The latter are enjoying a hearty conversation even though the have to use sign language while the older couple, both of whom can talk and hear is engulfed in their meal and neither the husband nor the wife is interested in what the other is thinking.
According to Georges, it is paradoxical that the people who seem to have it all are the ones who appear sad and his statement tends to imply that the couple is generally unhealthy-he refers to them as fat. The young men on the other hand are basically having the time of their life and they even spare a moment to entertain guests at the diner with their impromptu mine act (Levine 71). Georges finds it odd that they are happy even with their disabilities.
Levine’s short story more than anything else is a confirmation of the indulgences of the French. From the first page, the author reveals that the fridge in his room was filled with more than a few alcoholic drinks, “…and a small fridge fully stocked with wine, brandy, champagne” (Levine 65). Georges, when Levine first sees him is drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette and this seems to be his favorite pass time as we later see him doing the same (Levine 65, 71).
When Georges shows Levine the asylum, he reveals that back in the day the government drove people to alcoholism in a bid to get their loyalty. According to Georges the government encouraged people to drink more wine and this was used as a ploy to getting an unchallenged support from its people (Levine 68). As a consequence some people lost their minds due to the impact of the drink and had to be confined to an asylum.
Finally, we can also conclude that the story is also based on racial stereotypes. This is presented in the way Georges describes the Russians as giants with fur and boots and long overcoats. He also, though subtly reveals the Russian love for alcohol when he reveals that they gave away all their fancy clothes for wine (Levine 69).
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Norman describes the Japanese music as “sounding like a cat…and a chain with a bucket…and a man flogging his wife” (Levine 70). Though this comes out as funny as it was intended, it reveals just how racially biased society is and that individuals would always find their culture better than those of other descents.
Levine, Norman. “Something happened here.” The new oxford book of Canadian short stories. Eds. Margaret Artwood and Robert Weaver. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. 65-75. Print.