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Julia Darling’s short story “The Dress” sample essay

Sometimes people hold symbolic value to their material possessions, e.g. a dress. When those possessions are stolen it hurts more, and it makes it harder to condemn the thief, especially if the thief is someone you know and trust. Such is the case in Julia Darling’s short story “The Dress” where the main character Rachel gets her dress stolen by her own sister, Flora. This story deals with things like lying, betrayal, loyalty and family. It explains the process from when something gets stolen, to speculations concerning the thief, to discovering the thief, and finally dealing with the thief and seeing the consequences for the thief. The relationship between Rachel and her sister Flora is very tense. “”I wish she would shut up!” snapped Rachel. “What are you angry about?” asked Flora in a lightly whipped voice, as she chewed a prawn. “You know why I’m angry.”” As you can see, their conversations are very heated, perhaps a sign that things between them aren’t too good between them, even before the dress was taken. It could also just be siblings fighting, as siblings do sometimes.

The fact that Flora stole Rachels dress could also indicate that she is jealous of her sister. “At first she had simply thought that she would try it on for a moment and then replace it, but once it clung to her young body she found she was unable to take it off. She walked around the empty house, rejoicing in the way the dress made her feel slim and long legged.” This quote could indicate that Flora is jealous of Rachel’s natural beauty. Maybe Flora normally lives in the shadow of her sister, and would do anything to become like her. Better than her. Lying also seems to come naturally to Flora. “”The dress,” said Rachel, unable to contain herself. “I want the dress back.” “I don’t know what she’s talking about,” said Flora.” That could be because she is familiar with stealing, or that she simply has been forces to lie a lot in her family. Either way, the relationship between the sisters has diffidently worsened after the events of this story.

In the beginning of the story, The mother seems like a normal, socially active and adjusted person. She is forty years old, and her birthday party is actually taking place during this story. She is feeling the weight of her age. “”I’m so old,” said the mother. “You’re not!” said Flora. “No, not old,” said Rachel. “I think I might leave my job.” said the mother.” Often when people turn forty, one of two things happen.

Either they try to revive their youth by buying and doing things that make them feel young again, or they become depressed with their age and the fact that their looks and wits are fading. This could be the case judging from the quote. The mother also starts to show alcoholic tendencies near the end. “So the mother drank the rest of the wine and sat looking out at the black night, listening to footsteps in the street of people coming home from the bars in lively skittish groups.” As seen in the quote, The mother turns to liquor when her problems need solving. This could be a thing that she only did on that night, or maybe it has been a consistent problem throughout the life she has made with her daughters.

In the end, this is a short story that is trying to teach it reader morals like, don’t lie, don’t steal, be kind to your family etc. But the story is ultimately a quick look at a slightly dysfunctional. The sister that steals, the mother that drinks and Rachel who is left as the only “normal” family member. The one that has to lo live with a sister that can’t be trusted and a mother that can’t even help herself, much less her daughters.

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