The Shoe-Horn Sonata


John Misto

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

Alone with Rick in the television studio the next day, Bridie says she and the other prisoners made wills in case they died. Her will, she explains, was made out to Sheila, giving her all of her possessions, including her shoe-horn, her tobacco tin, and her “half-share” of their caramel. “Your caramel?” Rick asks, clearly entertained. In response, Bridie tells him not to make fun, since she and Sheila coveted their single piece of caramel, which was their “only luxury.” “Sheila sold her brooch to buy some—from a native who used to smuggle it,” she says. “Every week—on Sunday night—we’d pop that caramel into our mouths—for one minute each—one minute of bliss—then we’d store it away till the next week.”
Misto wants the audience to understand that people search for moments of pleasure when the rest of their lives are in turmoil. This is what Bridie and Sheila do when they suck on a piece of caramel for one minute each week. Indeed, just “one minute of bliss” is capable of sustaining them for seven days, suggesting that even the smallest forms of joy are capable of buoying a person’s spirits and making life easier to bear.
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Impressed by their willpower, Rick asks if Bridie and Sheila were ever “tempted to eat” the entire caramel, but Bridie says they were determined to make the candy last until the war ended. However, they succumbed to temptation on Christmas in 1943, when a group of Australian men who had “broken away from a working party” came to the fences of the prison camp and started singing Christmas carols. Hardly believing their ears, the women rushed to watch these men, and one even waved to Bridie. Once the men were forced to leave, the prisoners returned to their routines, but Sheila said, “To hell with this! Let’s have a proper Christmas dinner.” With this, she took out the caramel, and they alternated sucking it for one minute each until it was gone. Concluding her story about Christmas in 1943, Bridie tells Rick that she later married the man who had waved to her.
Although small forms of joy enable people like Bridie and Sheila to maintain their sense of hope, a single piece of caramel isn’t enough to help them sustain happiness in times of true duress. Indeed, this is why they must turn to one another, relying upon their friendship to help them maintain their high spirits. As such, they eat the caramel together, turning it into a celebration and thus allowing it to become part of their friendship, which is based on their willingness to share with one another.
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