In her short story “Loose Change”, Andrea Levy describes an all-day meeting between two women with an emigrational background in London. One of them has already established her life in the City, while the other has just arrived as a political refugee from Uzbekistan. The initial encounter takes a rather unexpected development up to a climax and a rather surprising end. For this, the setting, as well as the character of the I-narrator, the perspective of narration, and how other Londoners are described in the story, are very important. How these elements are used in the short story will be demonstrated in the following.
“Loose Change” is about a woman - the I-narrator - who is helped out by another foreign woman in the bathroom when she needs coins for the tampon machine, while all other women in there just leave. The I-narrator wants to give her back the money in some way and invites the other woman - Laylor -, for a cup of tea. At this time, the I-narrator assumes that Laylor is an emigrant from Spain because of the difference in her accent as she speaks. Once they arrive at the café they meet Laylor’s brother, whom Laylor has a short discussion with in her native language. As the conversation between the women develops, the I-narrator is told by Laylor that she and her brother are refugees from Uzbekistan and homeless in London. After the I-narrator learns of Laylor’s situation, she sees Laylor from a different perspective which makes out the turning point of the short story. Although, the I-narrator ponders about how she could help Laylor and her brother, remembering to her own emigrational background, she then leaves the café and Laylor again on her own.
The climax of the short story - the turning point - is described and supported by many different aspects. One of these aspects is the setting. The two women first meet in the bathroom of the National Gallery in London, where the I-narrator had fled to from the cold weather and where Laylor is looking interested at portraits. It leads the I-narrator to the belief that Laylor is a woman from another European country who is there on holiday or similar reason; anything but being a refugee from an Asian country, poor and homeless. The fact that they both meet in a gallery stresses the contrast between the women, because they like different pictures. However, it seems that Laylor is educated, with a real sense for art. The National Gallery, where one usually expects upper-middle class persons - not poor people interested in art -, is chosen as the setting for exactly this surprising effect at the turning point. If the two women had met in the streets this realization would have happened sooner.
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