The Shoe-Horn Sonata


John Misto

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The Shoe-Horn Sonata: Act Two, Scene Eleven Summary & Analysis

In their next interview with Rick, Bridie and Sheila explain that their choir “disband[ed]” in April of 1945 because too many of the singers had died, including Miss Dryburgh. As such, both women felt depressed and hopeless, but Sheila decided to arrange sonatas, which are “piece[s] for two musical instruments.” In this way, Sheila and Bridie continued singing, bringing music to the camp so that everyone “would know there was still music left.” “It probably sounded bloody awful,” Bridie says. “But not to us. To us we still had harmony… and the Japs could never ever take that away.”
Once more, Misto frames an immaterial manifestation of joy as a form of resilience. Indeed, Bridie and Sheila know that the guards can “never ever take” away their capacity to sing, so they continue making music. In doing so, they assert their own agency and resist complete oppression.
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Related Quotes
Sheila tells Rick that she returned to the camp 30 years after the war. Although she’d spent so much time “trying to forget” what had happened, she wanted to find the cemetery where they’d buried all of their friends. Tragically, though, there were no headstones, so the bodies lie in unmarked graves. “Why did you go back?” Rick asks, and Sheila says, “Because I’d never really left.”
When Sheila says that she’d “never really left” the prison camps, she sheds light on the effects of trauma. Having experienced something truly terrible, she now feels as if she can’t escape its memory. Of course, it would perhaps be easier for her to process what happened if she could depend upon someone who was willing to speak openly and warmly about her past, but even Bridie refuses to do this, so she’s forced to go on living with her pain in a very real, visceral way.
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