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Essay on "A Good Night's Sleep"

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Essay on “A Good Night’s Sleep”
You know the feeling. You went to bed three hours ago, and yet you have not fallen asleep. Panic is starting to take control of your mind and the darkness seems like a never-ending struggle. It feels as if you are being choked. It all starts out as tiny, red dots. In the beginning they are nothing but dots. When you notice how harmless they are, they start forming patterns. Suddenly they are everywhere. Among all the red dots monsters start appearing. Your biggest fear is approaching you and there is nothing you can do to stop the horror. A skinny arm of an abandoned child reaches out to touch you and in that very moment – you awake. You are all sweaty and frightened. You know, you have not been sleeping nor been awake. You have been drifting off to sleep and started hallucinating. Just as George Lockhart from the story you have just read.

“A Good Night’s Sleep” is a Scottish short story written by Brian McCabe and published in 1993. The story takes place in a tenement building in Edinburgh. The place of action is on the third floor where George Lockhart, the main character, lives. I think the social environment is middleclass. The people living in the building are at all ages and appearances. The story being told from an apartment creates a sense of claustrophobia, which does not get any less when you are told about the noises from the street.
The short story is being told from a third person omniscient narrative. It seems as a very reliable narrator because of its knowledge about the main character. The narrators attitude towards the characters would I describe as ironic: “The young girl sitting on his doormat looked up sharply as she spat out this affronted ‘Yes?’ as if he’d just barged into her bedroom. Maybe he had.” (p.3) Even though the comment ‘maybe he had.’ was meant sarcastic, it is still a depressing thought that he might have barged into whatever privacy she had left. This kind of narrative continues throughout the whole story.

George Lockhart suffers from insomnia and is a middle-aged divorcee. He is living by himself and works as a college teacher. It is told that he has been discussing the Problems of Modern Society in his classes lately, which makes him seem compassionate and dependable. It becomes very clear later in the text that the man we are dealing with is truly distressed. Due to the insomnia and the divorce George is now all shattered:

“He punched the pillow and rearranged his legs and his arms. It was one of those expensive beds, scientifically designed for the sleepless, but single. He tried not to think of Elaine…” (p.2)

This quote shows how lonely and devastated George has been since the divorce. He is nothing more than human and cannot deal with his life any longer. A young lady is going to change this. Late at night he hears multiple knocks on the door. On his doormat a girl is sitting. She is homeless and has decided to sleep outside his apartment. George offers her to sleep in his son’s bed, so she will recover from her flu, but she is stubborn and tells him that he should stop acting like he cared because in the end no one truly cares. This puts George’s life in perspective in a way that nothing else would. She tells George to stop ‘acting’ like he cares about her health. At first he gets offended and closes the door, but when he later on hears her cough in the hallway, he gets in a conflict with himself:

“Why should he care about her, if she didn’t? Why should anyone?
Again he heard her cough. When he could suffer it no longer, he climbed out of bed again and switched on the lamp.” (p.6)

This quote symbolizes the theme of the story. George does not look after himself, but he cannot stand to watch a young girl do the same. When we will not take care of ourselves, we need friends – or strangers – to help us get back on our feet, whether we want it or not.
On George’s way back to his front door, he hears his neighbours shout and tell the girl to leave the building. Despite the girl leaving and George heading back to bed, she has left such an impact on him that her voice keeps running in his head.
The ending shows how judgemental we can be, when we do not have the time to get to know one another. What a ‘Junkie’ was to George’s neighbour, was a young lady in need to George.

Even though the story is much more than an insomniac man meeting a girl, I am quite convinced, that the girl is a hallucination. Insomnia is known for the hallucinations it might cause, and personally I think this was the way George’s brain told him to start taking more care of himself. It told him life matters.…...

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