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Irvin Welshs A Soft Touch English Literature Essay

In this essay I am going to look at Irvine Welshs A Soft Touch from his anthology of short stories The Acid House. In A Soft Touch we get a glimpse husband and father, John's life in Edinburgh. His ordinary, repetitive, working-class life where we see him somewhat 'bullied' by folks in his life

The reason I thought we would analyse this short story is because it holds a lot of the key aspects of modern short story writing.

In reading many of Welsh's pieces, one might not fully understand all of the words or even some full sentences that Welsh incorporates into his characters' dialogue and often, his narration, e. g. , "Eywis"; "jist"; bairn"[1]

In the full anthology, The Acid House, Welsh experiments with other ways of incorporating and mixing the English language with the Scots language i. e. , a collective term for all your southern Scottish dialects. In a few pieces you'll find that whilst Welsh has mixed his national dialect with the English language, he tends to keep a formal voice and structure when it comes to narration, and lets the Edinburgh dialect show through the voices of his characters - thus exposing his ideas on class and culture at that time by using a linguistic hierarchy of sorts (the English language coming to the very best of the hierarchy, representing upper class, and the Scots language coming to the low end of the hierarchy, representing the working class[2]).

In A Soft Touch however, there is absolutely no such hierarchy. The narrator is the protagonist, so narration as well as dialogue is a hybrid of the two languages (English and Scots) - an overlap which you could say blurs the lines of class and culture or just gives more representation to 1 class.

Some might argue though, that Welsh's choice to use this mixture of languages makes it problematic for the reader to connect with the characters due to a lapse in communication and coherence - you can say that because words such as "aboot"; "oaf"; poakits"[1] are being used constantly throughout the storyline and that there surely is no break or shift in voice to provide the reader an improved perspective that it can be tough to comprehend the characters and where they may be coming from - aside from empathise or sympathise with them - an attribute you could say is highly important when creating a brief story of great value.

I however, discovered that this choice to work with one constant, somewhat incomprehensible, voice throughout the storyline is more of the strength (rather than a hindrance) that benefits the story in which makes it a strong piece of literature and, specifically, a valuable short story.

Firstly, the fact there exists this constant, unchanging voice throughout creates a tedious, mundane tone - this might seem to be a negative, but in fact it actually creates the perfect tone to create the scene that Welsh is trying to portray. Just like the works of 1 of the first modern short story writers, Anton Chekhov, Welsh's literature often aims to illuminate the dull and dreary aspects that the average indivdual finds themselves trapped in within quotidian life. This type of tone and setting is archetypal in a brief story - as Charles E. May explains, stories like this of Chekhov, Joyce, Mansfield etc. can be classed as modern short stories due to the fact that they often times disregard the "traditional notion of plot" and instead focus on distinct moments in everyday routine - often those dull, mundane occasions are interrupted by something, a "crisis", that brings a conflict in to the story. [3]

[1] (1994). The Acid House. London: Vintage. pp46 - 53

[2] Massimiliano Morini (2006). Norms, Difference and the Translator: or, How to Reproduce Double Difference. Italy. pp123 - 140.

[3] Charles E. May (ed. ) (1994). The New Short Story Theories. USA: ohio University Press. pp195 - 202

Welsh shares this facet of the modern story writing with the great authors mentioned previously. In his literature, and especially inside a Soft Touch, Welsh draws upon ordinary life (in cases like this life may well not seem that ordinary to the common British reader as it is set in 90's working-class Edinburgh, but as the author comes from an environment exactly like the one he is writing about, it is actually very ordinary to him and the individuals who lived and probably are in that kind of area - his experience does come through in his writing, making the characters and situation believable; even though they may do not have experienced anything like the situations that take place in the story) and 'throws a spanner in the works', if you will, with 'small disasters' that induce conflict and friction in the storyline - a conflict or friction that the reader assumable hopes will be resolved. But unlike the traditional short story, and nearly the same as Chekhov, Welsh does not permit the readers this satisfaction.

A main aspect that you might look for when deciding whether or not something fits into the frame of a brief story is set up story holds a moral or a lesson. WHICH HAS A Soft Touch, there is certainly evidently a lesson - that is certainly, among many underling messages and lessons, that life is unfair and frequently disappointing and unfinished. This is something that doesn't usually happen in the traditional short story, but is very apparent in the writings of modern short story writers such as Chekhov, Joyce, and especially Welsh. WITHIN A Soft Touch, Welsh immediately sets the tone as dark, yet slightly comical one - we realize that John has already had "wrong done by him" in the past by his wife Katriona[1] so when the storyline progresses John continues to "have wrong done by him" by Katriona yet others. As readers who are used to the classical short story aspects we immediately expect Welsh to add a larger conflict of the that your protagonist must overcome (this is included later when Katriona moves within John's nearby neighbour, leaving their baby with him, but continues to use his money and resources and also when the next door neighbour beats John up) and we expect the protagonist to come through this conflict a much better or changed person.

This, of course, will not happen with Welsh's A Soft Touch. In the end, Katriona leaves John's nearby neighbour and attempts another to John - is implied that he takes her back even though she's crossed him so many times. This is a disappointing for a reader (especially person who hasn't read any of Welsh's other works and is also not really acquainted with his dark, pessimistic tone) even as we usually expect the better to happen. But what Welsh does, like many modern short story writers, is he practices a realistic approach when writing and bluntly gives the reader a lesson that explains that life can not work out just like a fairy tale which sometimes things don't go according to plan.

Welsh's works are extremely popular all over the world and you might wonder why his writing is so appealing if it has this dark, realist tone and method of it when we know that folks often read stories to flee real life.

You could say that the way in which Welsh writes his characters makes them so believable and relatable that a lot of audiences immediately feel attracted to them and feel as if they can relate with them. Or you could say that Welsh says the stuff about life that people all think, but wouldn't dare say out loud - even while poking fun and laughing at these sad truths of life. Something we all wish we're able to do but don't contain the sheer blunt realism that Welsh does.

Some might argue that piece must have been translated into more of a formal English, but I feel that if this were done, it could take away the very essence of and brilliance of the piece. The reason why the storyline is so believable and relatable is basically because the characters are believable an d relatable - the primary reason they are simply like that is because Welsh thought we would keep the Scottish dialect he knows so well as a strong part of the structure and tone of the storyline. In case the story were translated, I don't think that A Soft Touch would be nearly as good a read as the very thing which make us as readers laugh and cry at the events in the story is the actual fact that it really feels like it is a genuine human being that these events happen to - quitting more motive to feel sympathetic or even empathetic. The essence of o good short story is being able to relate with the characters, to comprehend them.

[1231 words]

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