Published on May 8, 2014
When the Wasps Drowned’ by Clare Wigfall
What happens in the story? • Three children are left to look after themselves at home during the summer holidays while their mother is at work. One of the children, Therese, steps on a wasps’ nest and is attacked by the wasps, which foreshadows further danger that the children have to deal with in the summer, as they discover a teenager’s hand buried by their garden fence.
Themes: • Childhood naivety, danger and threat, family relationships and weather as an indicator of emotions.
Language: • Metaphors are used to compare the wasps to more positive images, which contrast the threat of the wolves to religious imagery ‘a halo of angry wasps blurring her shape’ • Personification is used to show how much the girl tries to escape the wasps ‘her pigtails dancing.’ • Present tense verbs are used to show how immediate the danger of the buried body is ‘the arm growing up through the soil’ this also creates the image of the arm being a plant. • Negative adjectives are used to describe the hand that the children discover ‘The skin was mauve in places, the fingernails chipped and clogged with soil’ The alliterative and repetitive ‘chipped’ and ‘clogged’ highlights the fact that the buried girl has possibly been buried alive and has tried to dig her way out. The way that the children use the dye from red Smarties demonstrates their naivety and longing to grow up quickly, but they’re clearly not ready to, as they fail to do the right thing and tell the police about the body in Mr Mordecai’s garden ‘Pouting Smartie-red lips, I told them Mum was at work, wouldn’t be home until six. I held my right hand behind my back.’ The fact that the narrator holds her hand, which has the ring on it, behind her back, demonstrates that she knows she should tell the police, but chooses not to. We can argue that the children aren’t as innocent as they seem.
Structure: • simple sentences are used to demonstrate that the narrator wants to move on quickly from the situation with the police and have them leave. • pathetic fallacy is used to demonstrate threat for the children: ‘The heat was all anyone ever seemed to speak of’; ‘The chemist sold out of after-sun that summer, and flower beds dried up’; ‘ache of cars moving slowly in the hot sun’ • Wigfall foreshadows the major threat of Mr Mordecai by including the wasps and heat at the opening of the story ‘We heard screams...Her screaming, the way it broke the day, so shocked me that I dropped a glass’
Links to other short stories: • Pathetic fallacy used to highlight feelings in: ‘Something Old, Something New’ (negative), ‘Compass and Torch’(negative), ‘...the 100% Perfect Girl...’ (positive), ‘The Darkness Out There’ (negative), ‘Anil’ (negative). • Childhood naivety (innocence) in: ‘Anil’, ‘Compass and Torch’ and ‘The Darkness Out There’ • Threat in: ‘Anil’ and ‘The Darkness Out There’ • Parenting in: ‘Anil’, ‘Compass and Torch’ and ‘Something Old, Something New’
‘When the Wasps Drowned’ is part of Wigfall’s debut short ... the characters in Clare Wigfall’s stories appear to be searching for something and ...