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"Dreams Of Dead Women's Handbags" By Shena Mac Kay. A Semiotic Approach.

3769 words - 15 pages

"Dreams of Dead Women's Handbags" by Shena MacKay(1) "Dreams of Dead Women's Handbags". The title has rather contradictory words that leave the reader with no clear explanation regarding its meaning. Why are handbags - not just a particular one, but of dead women in general - the subject of a dream? To dream of something means to indulge in day dreams or fantasies, typically about something greatly desired, whereas to dream about something means to experience dreams during sleep. One can dream of a better life, of becoming successful etc., but to dream of "dead women's handbags" is rather unusual. A dead woman's handbag can offer some clues regarding its owner. It is said that one can know about a woman by looking into her purse. Usually, women's handbags are very intimate and what they carry inside them are things that they need or things that they cherish. The kind of things a woman puts in her bag and even the way in which they are arranged shows a lot of her character. Once dead, a woman's identity is imprinted in the bag she used to own, it is all there is left from the time when she was alive. Dead women's handbags have stories to tell.(2) "It was a black evening bag sequined with salt, open-mouthed under a rusted marcasite clasp, revealing a black moiré silk lining stained by sea water". The incipit is formulated in such a way that it looks like an answer to a possible question such as: "What kind of bag was it?" The author begins the story with the description of a "black evening bag sequined with salt". "Black" and "evening" create an atmosphere of mystery and together with the adjective "dead" from the title contribute to the mood of the story. The noun "sequin" denotes a small, shiny disc sewn as one of many on to clothing for decoration. "Sequined with salt" refers to the way in which the salt had dried on the bag, as if somebody would have decorated it on purpose. The contrast between the "rusted marcasite clasp" and the "black moiré silk" is obvious. This is the second time the colour black is used. Even if "black" refers to the nouns "bag" and "silk", in the mind of the reader, this colour is very suggestive at a subconscious level.In lexie (3) there is a long enumeration of other things that were on the beach, besides the bag, such as: "crab shells, plastic detritus, oily feathers, condoms, clouded glass" and "a brittle black-horned mermaid's purse".(4) "This image, the wreckage of a dream beached on the morning, would not float away; as empty as an open shell, the black bivalve emitted a silent howl of despair: clouds passed through its mirror." Both the title and the beginning of the story are very cryptic. It is not the bag that is a "wreckage" but the image presented up to this point. Giving that the story begins with a bag on the shore, the word "wreckage" is part of the same register of words. Yet, it doesn't refer to something palpable, such as a bag, but to something abstract: "the wreckage of a dream". A...

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