Story Analysis of ‘Marriage Lines’ by Julian Barnes

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It’s Day 11 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read Marriage Lines by Julian Barnes. 

You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

Julian Barnes is an award-winning author of several short stories, essays, and novels, including the 011 Man Booker Prize winning novel The Sense of an Ending.

Story Analysis 

Marriage Lines by Julian Barnes is an elegant and modern short story. Actually, it has an old-world charm quality in the writing style that’s juxtaposed to the modern age. The story is narrated in a restrained way, much like its protagonist. 

“He told it without tears, in a neutral voice, as if it might have happened to someone else. It was the only way, so far, that he knew how.”

The story is about a man who visits an island and recollects his memories. It is a story about human relationships and love. And where there’s love, can grief be left behind. There are two starkly opposite couples in the story – one is orthodox religious with sacramental and practical notions of marriage. And the other is a modern-day, adventurous couple with a practical but opposing notion of marriage. 

“As he handed Calum more salt, and saw the oven glove poised in anticipation, he found himself saying, man to man, ‘Bit like marriage, isn’t it?’

Calum frowned slightly. ‘What’s your meaning?’

‘Oh, waiting for something to pop out of the sand. Then it turns out either there’s nothing there, or something that cuts your hand open if you aren’t bloody careful.’

It had been a stupid thing to say. Stupid because he hadn’t really meant it, more stupid because it was presumptuous. Silence told him that Calum found such talk offensive, to himself, to Flora, to the islanders generally.”

Barnes is excellent in building vivid imagery with his words and pulling you, the reader, into his imaginative world as we join the characters in their adventures of hiking, birdwatching, pebble hunting, or clam-digging. 

By the time you come to the finish line, you are bound to be choked just like the protagonist himself. It’s probably one of my most favourite conclusions in a short story. The ending is perfection. It’s soul-stirring, philosophical, and romantic. 

Marriage Lines ticks all the boxes in the requisites of a great story. Conjecture is that Marriage Lines is a semi-autobiographical story of Julian Barnes. Irrespective of the fact, it’s a beautiful ode to love and marriage. 

“They, their: he knew he must start getting used to the singular pronoun instead. This was going to be the grammar of his life from now on.”

Barnes uses the techniques of literary minimalism and symbolism in this poignant love story. The irony is that the author talks about everything in the story but love. But still, what a great tribute it is to love and the institution that is marriage!

How did you find Marriage Lines by Julian Barnes? 

*I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.

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