The Raft by Peter Orner

If you are interested in reading the novel before continuing on, click here

“The Raft” is a short story written by Peter Orner in 2000. We follow a grandfather with short-term memory loss, who is about to tell his grandson the story he has never told anybody, yet again. Despite having heard the story several times before, the boy listens as his grandfather talks about the specific day in the South Pacific.

The story is written in first person, singular, using “I”. As a consequence, the text becomes personal, and somehow more real. When a text is written from that point of view, the reader connects easier with the situation, feeling that they are a part of the story.

Other means used in the short story is irony, mostly ironic questions. The use is the most clear at the end of the short story when the grandmother asks where the kid is. Yet, it can be difficult to understand if some parts/phrases in the short text are meant to be ironic or not.

In my view, the climax in the story is when they are in the closet, and the little boy asks his grandfather why he ordered the Japanese shot. That is when the story the grandfather tells is the most exciting, and the change of environment gives his story a more serious mark. The fact that the grandfather fails to answer the little boy’s question, and instead remains silent is, to me, the climax. The story comes to an end soon after that.

Despite “the raft” being a short story, it captures the essence of a very important theme, namely decisions. There are, most likely, many people who are suffering with a guilty conscience because of their actions during a war. Even though was expected of them at that time, it might be hard to defend that later in life.  In this story, the grandfather talks about how his actions had nothing to do with him a person, and everything to do with his uniform. He was expected to act a certain way, to kill the Japanese on the raft, even though they were most likely fugitives. That decision, despite it in many ways not being his, has haunted him ever since. Every time he tells the story he gets so emotional that he cries.

To conclude, “the raft” is a powerful short story, focusing on important themes, such as decisions. If you are interested in short stories with a message, I recommend you to read it. The fact that it is written from a child’s point of view only makes it more interesting.

The raft

A picture illustrating how it might have been

– Kristin


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