The Shoe-Horn Sonata

by

John Misto

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

Summary
Analysis
Back in Sheila’s hotel room, the two friends talk about spending a weekend together, but decide they’d “bicker” too much. They then talk about whether or not they hate Japanese people. Bridie, for her part, admits that she becomes frightened around Japanese people, going on to tell a story about finding herself surrounded by a group of Japanese tourists while shopping. Forgetting that she was holding a package of cookies, she ran out of the store and was promptly arrested for shoplifting. Because she didn’t want “the whole nursing corps” to know this story, she decided not to explain herself, so she went to court and was fined for the theft. Seeing how upset her friend is, Sheila puts her arm around Bridie and tells her that this story isn’t so bad, but Bridie insists that to her it’s “the end of the world for,” since she loses sleep because of the “shame.”
Unlike Bridie, Sheila is ready and willing to comfort her friend. Whereas Bridie immediately shames Sheila for having slept with the guards, Sheila makes an earnest attempt to soothe Bridie when she hears this story about the accidental theft. This, it seems, is the supportive reaction that Sheila needs herself, which is perhaps why she’s able to recognize the importance of lending a friend support when that friend is having trouble dealing with an upsetting memory.
Themes
Friendship, Sacrifice, and Resentment Theme Icon
Trauma and Repression Theme Icon
Despite Sheila’s insistence that Bridie’s arrest is nothing to be ashamed of, Bridie says that she promised herself she’d “never tell anyone” about the incident. “I’m not just anyone, Bridie,” Sheila says. “Keeping a secret wears you down. Believe me—I know.” She then reveals her desire to tell the story of her rape on television, considering talking about it in the final interview. Hearing this, Bridie tells Sheila not to talk about the matter “beyond this room,” but Sheila ignores this, talking about the “thousands of survivors” there must be in the world, people who are—like her—still “strapped in the war” and “too ashamed to tell anyone.” “The war hasn’t ended,” Sheila tells Bridie. “Not for me. For me it goes on. And now I want peace.”
At this point in The Shoe-Horn Sonata, Sheila has come to understand that expressing troubling emotions is perhaps the best way to process trauma. Whereas she was determined at first to hold onto her secret about Lipstick Larry and the other guards, now she recognizes how therapeutic it would be to tell her story on national television. Bridie, on the other hand, is still judgmental about the entire matter, not wanting to speak openly about such things—after all, if Sheila tells this story, the guilt Bridie feels might become unbearable. In this way, Bridie selfishly thinks of herself instead of considering how cathartic it would be for Sheila to finally unburden herself of this toxic secret.
Themes
Survival, Resilience, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Friendship, Sacrifice, and Resentment Theme Icon
Trauma and Repression Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Distraught that Sheila might talk about her trauma on television, Bridie warns, “You know what they’ll call you. They’ll call you a whore.” Nevertheless, Sheila remains resolute, and so Bridie stands to leave, saying that if she’d known her friend would act like this, she would have “let [her] drown in the South China Sea.”
Again, Bridie lashes out at Sheila because she doesn’t know to process the guilt she feels about the fact that her friend sacrificed herself to save her life. Rather than trying to support Sheila, she angrily tries to keep her from speaking about the incident, clearly hoping that Sheila’s continued silence will enable them to ignore the matter altogether.
Themes
Survival, Resilience, and Catharsis Theme Icon
Friendship, Sacrifice, and Resentment Theme Icon
Trauma and Repression Theme Icon