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Letter from the Understudy

  • Date Submitted: 09/26/2015 01:18 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 68.3 
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Letter from the Understudy

Man has become obsessed with the idea of becoming famous, successful and acknowledged. Man wants to climb the social ladder, and stand at the top. There are different ways to achieve these goals, and some are more desperate than others. “Letter from the Understudy” is a short story by the author, Kathryn Simonds, in which she portrays this desire to acquire acknowledgement and fame.  

“Letter from the Understudy” conveys the protagonist, Gavin’s, longing after climbing the theatre’s social ladder, and becoming the leading role instead of the understudy: “But I knew, I knew in my heart, that I didn't lack talent. I just needed the opportunity to prove myself as the Gavin Pollard I could be, (…) the scene-stealing, balcony-scaling leading man.” (pg. 2, l., 27-29) The short story is written as a letter from Gavin to Malcolm, the director: “Dear Malcolm (…)” (pg. 1, l.. 1) Gavin is the understudy in Malcolm’s play, in which Gavin’s colleague, Alex, plays the starring role. Gavin writes the letter, as an apology to Malcolm: “The first thing to say is, I'm sorry. I know it won't be easy for you to believe after recent events, but I deeply regret the mess I've made and the embarrassment I've caused you.” (pg. 1, l., 2-3)

The letter is written by Gavin, which means that we only hear one side of the story. This means that it is a first person narrator. He might exaggerate, leave out details or change the story. Gavin is most likely unreliable, but manages to catch the reader’s empathy. Gavin includes a lot about his family relations, his childhood and other intimate details about his life in the letter to Malcolm: “Mum had never eaten an olive until Di introduced her to one. All I've managed to introduce her to is a feeling of vague anxiety.” The descriptions of his childhood and his relationship with his sister, Dianne, gives an indication that Gavin has been “the understudy” as long as he can remember – always second in line, after his sister...


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