The short story 'The Cell' is about a man who has just been confined to prison, and is examining his surroundings within his cell. He describes in detail all the objects in the solitary cell, like the toilet, bed, wash basin, tap, and the barred window. The prisoner tries in vain to keep his spirits high, making minor resolutions throughout the story. His greatly optimistic view of the situation and determination to remain positive is continually overpowered by devastating discoveries and realisations. During the story the prisoner slowly comes to terms with the harsh reality of his situation. The author develops the characters growing awareness of the situation through the way the reader is taken through the prisoners cataloguing of his surroundings.
Throughout the story, the prisoner's determination to stay positive and aim to find the best in the situation is conveyed through the various resolutions that he makes. His spirits are shattered time after time, when he realises the resolutions he makes simply won't work, forcing him to come to terms with his situation. One of the resolutions the prisoner made was to place paper in the spy hole to obtain some privacy, giving him a lift in spirits. His spirits were then broken with the realisation that he had no access to paper. At this point he begins to come to terms with the fact that he is confined to his cell and hasn't got the freedom of accessing basic day to day items.
Another of his resolutions was to flush the toilet using the bucket and water from the tap when he discovered the toilet didn't flush. Once again his hopes are shattered with the stark reality of the tap no longer operating. This makes the prisoner aware he doesn't have even the basic necessities of life. The prisoner finally comes to terms with the reality of the situation when he realises he had only been in the cell a mere 3 minutes, in which time he had covered everything there was to discover. It was only then that he realised just how long he would be without freedom. The story is effectively written in the way that the realism of the scene and the prisoner's feelings are conveyed.
One of the techniques the writer used to achieve this was the use of present tense. This is effective as it immediately puts the reader in the story, making them feel part of it. The descriptive opening paragraph also achieves this same purpose, and as well as setting the scene of the story. The prisoner's constant change of thought and mood is showed with the use of very short paragraphs. The writers word choice was very effective and creative, such as 'goggles', 'glassily', and strong emotive words like 'searing devastating intensity'.
Another effective aspect of the story was the way the writer conveyed the prisoner's mood swings by comparing them to a barometer. This metaphor is used in the story to indicate the prisoner's optimism and depression, and how quickly his mood changes from one to another. It is mainly used in the last four paragraphs where the prisoner's mood is rapidly changing. These mood changes are due to discoveries and realisations such as the discovery of running water, the realisation of the toilet not flushing, planning to flush the toilet with water from the tap, and the discovery that the tap had ceased functioning. The writer expresses these continual mood swings through the barometer as "it falls - it rises - it falls - it rises". The story is finished very effectively with a surprising ending.
The reader is told that the prisoner had only been in the cell 3 minutes for the duration of the story, when it seemed much longer. The writer includes a colon as part of this effective ending, creating a pause and a slight feel of anticipation from both the reader and the prisoner. This ending also left the reader with a lot of things to think about. The story caused several strong reactions from the reader. It made me empathize with the prisoner, and wonder what it would be like being confined to prison in a solitary cell. What would you think about for all that time?
How would you stop yourself from going insane? How would you keep positive and stay determined under those sort of conditions? Your whole life would instantly change, and you would be forced to adapt very quickly or you simply wouldn't survive. I also felt quite sorry for the prisoner. He was trying to be so optimistic but every positive idea kept rebounding back in his face. Also the lack of privacy he had and such horrifying conditions made me feel even more sorry for him.
Another reaction I had was the idea of how easily a person's freedom and humanity can be taken away by simply restricting them from the world. Just the idea of this makes me very grateful I still have a lot of freedom, and choices in life.