When a child is growing up, the parents relationship influences the child a lot. But happy married couples, don’t always stay happy. In Claire Anderson-Wheeler’s short story “Vernissage”, The child Alex lives his life, oblivious to the change in his parents relationship, until he ”happens” to overhear a private conversation. The short story has a first person narrator, who is also the main character, the child Alex. Alex is at the age where he starts to question whether he is too old for some things: “Maybe he was getting too old for banana sandwiches.
He thought about saying that he didn’t want to eat them any more. But he liked them(… )”(p. 8, l. 49-51), but though he feels he might be getting too old, he isn’t quite ready to give up his childhood things at the beginning of the short story. But after hearing his mother and father’s conversation in the bedroom, he changes his mind, deciding that he will ask his mother for less childish things. Alex sudden wish to grow up, comes from learning the truth about his parents relationship.
Whether he only understands the extent of his parents problems subconsciously, or I old enough to process it, is not known, although it I seems mostly like the first possibility, since he doesn’t start crying, or thinking about what might happen in the future. The parents relationship is almost non-existing, and it seems to have been bad for a while. But since the father had once cared about what the mother wore, and the fact that purple suited her, means that their relationship hadn’t always been like this.
But at this point he doesn’t even try to sound interested: ““It’s very nice, Frances. Lovely. ” That voice Alex knew. It was the same voice that he heard when he showed something he’d made in school”(p. 10, l. 138-140). This comment shows the reader just how little the father is actually paying attention, and how little it means to him, that his wife has put on a beautiful dress, just for him. But even though he seems like he doesn’t care, the mother still cares, and tries to seduce him/make him interested in her again.
She tries this by making her voice more interesting, alluring: “(… )[her voice] seemed full of plums: dark and round and soft”(p. 10, l. 136-137). When that fails she takes a change and makes a move, that visible shows her aim. She takes the fathers hand, and places it on her breast. But he bluntly rejects her by not even commenting her actions, but simply moving his hand. Whether the father is having an affair or not is not mentioned at all in the short story, but he clearly isn’t sexually interested in the mother anymore.
There are used a lot of symbolism in the story, mostly to show Alex reactions to his parents conversation, and what he learns of their relationship. The Banana sandwich from before ‘s taste becomes a symbol of when he is uncomfortable. The use of this symbol is shown when he thinks of the nanny he doesn’t like and gets a sickly-sweet taste in his mouth. He gets the sickly-sweet taste in his mouth again, when the fathers hand is on his mothers breast, even though he ate the banana sandwich long before.
Another symbol is the two sets of shoes: “Two sets of shoes lay abandoned on different sides of the room”(p. 11, l. 167). The fact that the mother and father’s shoes are left like that, can be interpreted as a symbol of their relationship, and how they aren’t on the same page any more. That they don’t feel the same for each other anymore. The story’s ending is a symbol in it self. Alex looks at his childish crocodile toothbrush, and decides to ask his mother for a normal toothbrush. This time he doesn’t hesitate, and he doesn’t need to think about his decision, as he had had to with the banana sandwich.
The parents conversation has changed him, and has made him older in a few minutes. The crocodile toothbrush becomes a symbol of his childhood, and by choosing to get rid of it, he is also choosing adulthood, and growing up. Growing up is also the story’s main theme. Growing up, and how ones parents affect the process. Alex chooses to put his childhood behind him because of this experience. Because he learns that mother and father aren’t perfect, as young children think their parents are.
Alex overhears a private conversation between his parents, and like a child growing up is influenced by its parents relationship, so is Alex influenced by this experience. It makes him grow up faster than he might have wanted to. Before he witnessed the exchange between his parents he didn’t want to grow up just yet. But afterwards he decides to grow up in an instant, without doubt. So perhaps Alex was just helped along the way, to the same conclusion as he might have made a few days later. Or he might have unwillingly lost his last chance of remaining a child a little longer.