The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox Literary Elements

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox Literary Elements



Setting and Context

Scotland, from the 1950s to the present

Narrator and Point of View

Third person narrator from the point of view of both Esme Lennox and Iris Lockhart

Tone and Mood

Tragic and sad

Protagonist and Antagonist

Esme is the protagonist; her family and accepted propriety the antagonists

Major Conflict

Constant conflict between Esme and her parents because she will not behave in the way that they demand


The discovery that Iris is actually Esme's granddaughter is the climax of the novel


Kitty tells Iris that "she wouldn't let go of the baby" and although Iris doesn't understand what this means or foreshadows the discovery that Kitty took Esme's baby for her own


Iris was given some "pretty frocks" which is an understatement as one of them is a once in a lifetime couture gown


Alex alludes to the condition Tourette's Syndrome when he asks why Iris is yelling out curse words


The sterile, faceless and characterless hospital is described in a way that appeals to all of our senses: the perpetual smell of horrible food to out sense of smell, the cacophony of shouting to our hearing, the nondescript nothingness to our visual sense


Iris had a picture of Kitty and an "unknown girl" on her picture board but paradoxically knew of Esme all the time because she is the unknown girl in the photo


There is a parallel between Esme's belief that women should be treated equally to men and Iris' similar belief

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The ward is often used to represent the patients within it


The building was watching Iris / giving the building the ability to watch and interpret what it is seeing

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