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“The Acoustics of Loneliness” by Mary Shine Literary Analysis Essay

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Updated: Aug 17th, 2022

The Acoustics of Loneliness is a short fiction by Mary Shine, published in 2003. The short story consists of 5 parts and is united by a common theme that can be traced in each part. Sarah teaches guitar playing to children and teenagers, Parker in this sense, is a non-standard case. This is a thirty-year-old chemistry teacher whom Sarah teaches a couple of times a week. The episodic progress is linear; events take place one by one, making it possible to immerse in the action. The episodic footsteps act as symbols to represent loneliness that is less physical and about being in an environment that isn’t intimate but deep-seated spiritual loneliness of the soul.

Sarah’s life seems ordinary, but neither people nor her affairs fill her with special meaning. The betrayal of her husband makes her feel emptiness, and she decides to divorce. “It has taken her twelve years to accept that he is not worth her devotion.” (Shine, par. 12). It is symbolic that in a cafe, she notes a couple who behave like honeymooners. This makes her think about her personal life, which is not as bright as those older people and may not become so.

An intriguing symbol is the steps Sarah hears from the vacant apartment above. Significantly, the sound of footsteps appears only on days when Clay does not come home. This situation can be interpreted so that these days, the feeling of loneliness intensifies; she is defenseless in this state. Since acoustics is possible only in the case of complete silence, Sarah hears her loneliness, which creates a certain discomfort, a feeling of misunderstanding, and rejection.

The footsteps symbolize the acoustics of loneliness and make one think about life in this context. Perhaps Clay also faces the acoustics of loneliness, experiencing the same feelings as his wife, in the last scene. The author uses direct and indirect descriptions that clarify what emotional situation of the main character. “She is thirty-three years old and dying of loneliness,” it is said. (Shine, par. 10) Sarah needs to fill this emptiness, distracting and occupying herself with work and affairs.

Thus, the feeling of personal emptiness is prominent and cannot be filled with daily activities. This emptiness and mental loneliness resemble acoustics, in which even insignificant thoughts and actions are visible and audible. This allows Shine to portray a subtle but evocative image of the narrator’s loneliness, one that a reader can find in themselves and others at certain points in their lives.

Work Cited

Shine, Mary. The Acoustics of Loneliness. 2003.

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""The Acoustics of Loneliness" by Mary Shine Literary Analysis." IvyPanda, 17 Aug. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/the-acoustics-of-loneliness-by-mary-shine-literary-analysis/.

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IvyPanda. ""The Acoustics of Loneliness" by Mary Shine Literary Analysis." August 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-acoustics-of-loneliness-by-mary-shine-literary-analysis/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. ""The Acoustics of Loneliness" by Mary Shine Literary Analysis." August 17, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-acoustics-of-loneliness-by-mary-shine-literary-analysis/.

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