Reading in the Dark

The most significant way Deane makes this chapter so unsettling and disturbing is the detailed language he presents the reader with. He uses this description to conjure up imagery within the readers’ mind, which has a profound effect. He described the gun as… ‘a long, chill pistol, blue-black and heavy’. Deane writes ‘blue-black’ to suggest a bruise, the aftermath to what would be a violent act. Lots of language in this scene, similar to the previous description, is pejorative trying to portray the disturbing nature of the situation.

One of the most effective uses of negative language is the pathetic fallacy used in the first line of ‘Pistol’, ‘In that dark winter’. This insinuates that something sinister, something dreadful will soon occur. Deane uses words like ‘smuggled’ instead of taken, and ‘argument’ instead of discussion to show the aggressive nature of this section. Another way Deane makes ‘Pistol’ an unsettling and disturbing moment in the novel is the way he conjoins innocence with brutality. One moment which emphasises this is when we find out the gun was ‘inside the wardrobe of the room next door, where my sisters slept’.

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This contrasts the innocence of young girls with something as brutal as a firearm. Another way Deane does this is by saying that the gun ‘had been a gift to my father’. A gift is supposed to be something given out of generosity, however Deane juxtaposes this by the German sailor giving the gun to his father in a time of war and conflict, as not a gift but perhaps as a method of protection. Fogey McKeever plays an important role in this scene regarding the contrast of innocence and brutality. In his case it’s dissimilarity between innocence and deceitfulness. McKeever was ‘known to be a police informer’.

This shows the sense of community that the narrator now seems to be belonging to, unlike earlier in the novel where he felt isolated due to his disagreement to others’ views. McKeever was a ‘young, open-faced man’, ‘with a bright smile and wide-spaced, rounded eyes’. This is disturbing and unsettling as he’s blatantly deceitful and not what he seems to be on the outside. This links in with a moment earlier in the novel where the narrator is trying to unpick reality and find out the truth. As McKeever hides his true self, it could be portrayed as if he’s hiding from reality, making it all the more mysterious and unsettling.

The police are an integral part of this moment. The police as we know it are supposed to be a source of protection and safety, the antithesis of criminals. However Deane brands them as people who are careless, who ‘opened a tin of Australian peaches and poured the sugar-logged syrup all over the floor’, and ‘split open a bag of cement in his ransack of the shed’. Deane refers to them as people who ‘took the oxygen out the air’. Their utter chaotic nature represents that they can’t be trusted and you certainly can’t feel safe in their presence.

Where would these people acquire such protection and security from if the police weren’t doing their job? This shows the type of society these people were in, somewhere unsafe and vulnerable. This is why I suppose it seems normal for a young boy to be carrying a gun around and showing it off to his friends. The police walk into the house and Deane describes one of them as ‘a bright white figure in a white rain-cape’. This could be interpreted as an angel figure, a pure person or someone coming to help. This is contrasted with their black cars, another way of deception and of masking who they really are.

Deane says that they ‘landed like spaceships’, which implies they are obtruding on the house. The police obviously struck instant fear into the family and were determined to brutalise them. This is shown clearly when Deane says ‘Everybody had sweat or tears on their faces’. There is an apparent juxtaposition between the sweat, due to the nerve-racking fear and the tears, due to the weakness and powerlessness of the family showed.

Another way that Deane made the police so disturbing is the fact that they had no mercy, ‘they beat him…but they didn’t believe him…so they beat us too, Liam and me, across the table from him’. Him’ refers to their father who had to watch his own children being beaten up. These sweat and tears from before had now turned into ‘sweat and rage’, which illustrates his anger towards the police. The way the reader can tell that police induced fear into the narrator is that it had a prolonged effect on him. ‘If a light flickered from the street beyond, the image of the police car would reappear and my hair would feel starched and my hands sweaty’. It seriously affected his life and the way he would act later on in the novel.