Essay: The Dress by Julia Darling

”The Dress” is a short story about an impairing relationship between two sisters, Flora and Ra-chel, written by Julia Darling in 2006. The text tells a story about how the two sisters’ relationship breaks, which unfortunately happens on their mother’s fortieth birthday. This happens because of Flora who stole and ruined Rachel’s dress. In the following I will account for the impairing rela-tionship by characterizing the mother, explaining the relationship between Flora and Rachel, fur-thermore I will also account for the structure, the symbolism and the theme in the text.

The mother of Flora and Rachel turns 40 the day the story takes place. In the beginning of the text, the reader gets the impression that the mother isn’t that good at handling conflicts at home “It was their mother’s fortieth birthday, and Rachel knew that she would have to be pleasant, to forget about her stolen dress, wear something else, and smile.” (p. 1 ll. 26-28) It’s obvious that Rachel avoids dealing with this conflict because of her mother, which is quite interesting since the mother is a bereavement counselor her job is to take care of people whose lives are falling apart. Therefore, when she’s off the clock she wants to home and not have to focus on other peoples’ problems but instead focus on herself and feel loved “She felt sorry or herself. All day she had sat with tearful needy people. It was her birthday, and she wanted to relax. She wanted to feel loved.” (P. 3 ll. 96-97) This shows that she isn’t capable of dealing with her children’s disputes and her neglecting leads to her loss of both Flora and Rachel. By not dealing with the conflicts be-tween her children she ends up pushing them away from her.

The relationship between Flora and Rachel is noticeably strained and it has most likely been so for a while. When Rachel finds out that her dress is missing the first thing that gets to her mind is Flora sitting outside a café wearing her dress. Even though Rachel knows that Flora stole her dress she is being extremely unselfish and tries to forget about it to give her mother a good birthday. “It was their mother’s fortieth birthday, and Rachel knew that she would have to be pleasant, to forget about her stolen dress…” (P. 1 ll. 26-28) Flora on the other hand is really enjoys wearing that dress and she describe it as delicious. She wants to be like Rachel, whom she describes as taller, braver and cleverer. Flora feels like the dress gives her these qualities and hopes that it would attract some attention from their mother. It’s also seen that Flora is the more disobedient of the two. Flora is screaming for attention; her room is a mess, she curses and she gets around with an Italian guy named Alberto.

The story starts in medias res, the first thing we hear about is Rachel who stands in the hallway and it’s also in chronological order. This is except for one flashback “The glass had slipped out of Flora’s hand. The drink…” (PP. 4-5 ll. 159-166) We are all of a sudden introduced to the scene where Flora drops a bright red drink on Rachel’s dress.

The initial situation in the text is that Flora and Rachel barely speak together and Rachel accuses Flora for stealing her dress without evidence. Throughout the story Rachel is pres-suring Flora to tell what happened to the dress and when she does it hits like an explosive. This ends in an open ending with Rachel who moves in at her father’s place and Flora who gets told to leave.

Julia Darling uses a lot of symbolism in the text and the most conspicuous is the dresses. Starting with the dress that is stolen by Flora which symbolizes their relationship. It’s the fact that Flora ruined the dress which causes Rachel to leave. Otherwise the dress could be a symbol of the mother’s attention. When Flora steals the dress from Rachel, which may symbol Flora stealing the mother’s attention from Rachel. This turned out to be a very bad decision and Flora ends up with her getting kicked out “”I want you to leave!” sobbed the mother. “Don’t worry. I’m going,” said Flora” Furthermore the dress that has been ruined was green. Green is a symbol of family, harmony and peace, which no longer is a part of the family.

At the restaurant Rachel wears a black dress and red earrings, which could symbol-ize her agitation. The black colored dress symbolizes Rachel’s anger and the red earrings symbol-izes her aggression against her sister.

The theme in this text is neglecting. This is especially seen when Flora is desperately screaming for attention, and the mother isn’t able to give her daughters the attention they need. This is be-cause her career takes up very much of her time so she just wants to be loved when she gets home. This is also why she isn’t able to solve the conflict between her children, and she’s the one whom have the responsibility for them since she’s the only parent.

The text “The Dress” deals with the theme neglecting, which for the mother ends with both her children leave her. The message in the text could be that work isn’t all and you sometimes should look at what’s happening right in front of you.

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