The Shoe-Horn Sonata

by

John Misto

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The Shoe-Horn Sonata: Act One, Scene Four Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back in the hotel, Bridie and Sheila discuss the interview. Whereas Bridie is satisfied with how it went, Sheila is upset, saying that it was unnecessary for Bridie “to call the British ‘thick.’” Bridie, for her part, points out that it was rather stupid of the British forces to send boats of their own people “straight into the Japanese fleet.” “You’re just like your former Prime Minister—any excuse to bash the Poms,” Sheila retaliates. “That’s a side of you I’d forgotten,” Bridie replies. “Shelia the Patriot. It must have been hard to live out here—when your heart was so firmly entrenched in England.”
Bridie and Sheila’s argument in this scene is based almost entirely on the fact that they’re both from different countries. Because they can’t put aside their patriotic pride, they end up ripping into one another, completely forgetting—or ignoring—that they both were forced to endure the same trauma. Rather than commiserating with one another, then, they bicker, ultimately letting this tension affect their relationship.
Themes
Pride and Patriotism Theme Icon
Friendship, Sacrifice, and Resentment Theme Icon
Sheila informs Bridie that “one never stops being British.” Although Bridie continues to make fun of her, Sheila remains resolutely proud of her country. “You can snicker all you like,” she says, “but at the very worst times in the camp—I’d remind myself I was part of an Empire—and if others could endure it, so could I.” She then suggests that this patriotism is what helped her get through the war, though Bridie upholds that she was the one to get Sheila through the war. After all, she says, the British Empire didn’t even care enough about Sheila to save her from the Japanese. Deeply offended, Sheila tells Bridie that if she says that the following day on television, she’ll leave.
Again, Misto underlines just how invested Sheila is in her own patriotism. At this point in the play, the audience understands that Sheila often turns to thoughts of her country in times of distress, frequently “remind[ing]” herself that she’s “part of an Empire.” In turn, this helps her feel as if she belongs to something bigger than herself—a tough and respectable group of people—lending her the strength to persevere through difficult times.
Themes
Survival, Resilience, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Pride and Patriotism Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Taunting Sheila, Bridie says she’ll tell Rick that they both made “loin-cloths” for the Japanese guards. The two women then laugh about how they tormented a guard named Lipstick Larry by leaving a rusty pin in the inseam of his loincloth, so that when he went to bow, he suffered a sharp pain in his groin. As they chuckle, the audience hears a voice-over reenactment of Lipstick Larry yelling in pain and then beating Bridie. As this plays, the two women stop laughing, though they don’t sink into total sadness. “The look on his face—God that was funny!” Sheila says, and they both agree that this was the “best moment of the war.” Raising a nightcap to one another, they touch glasses and yell, “Ya-ta!!” As the lights cut out, the sounds of Lipstick Larry beating Bridie continue into blackness.
Although they’ve been arguing, Sheila and Bridie quickly transition back into easygoing camaraderie, speaking fondly about how they tormented their oppressor, Lipstick Larry. As such, the audience sees that these two women use humor not only to cope with hardship, but also to patch up their own relationship. However, there’s no changing the fact that they still carry around the trauma of the prison camps. As the sounds of Bridie’s beating play in the darkness, Misto demonstrates that although humor can help people deal with psychological stress, it can’t completely erase painful memories.
Themes
Survival, Resilience, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Friendship, Sacrifice, and Resentment Theme Icon
Trauma and Repression Theme Icon