We can’t tell much about Agnes Staudy, as she is not a well-known writer. It may be supposed she is American according to using Americanisms in the text (‘pocket-sized flat folding case for holding money and plastic cards’ is called wallet (Am), not purse (Br)).
The story is set in two neighboring houses. In one of them we see a mother, Millie Brent, who came to her neighbour Irene for reassurance. The matter of Millie’s worry is that her four-year-old daughter Sue Ann makes up stories about frightening situations including fire and strangers at home. Millie is very upset about the fact that her daughter is a liar and she needs some advice. During the adults’ conversation over a cup of coffee Sue Ann herself appears. She is excited and tries to convince the women that right now there is a burglar at home. The mother is sure the girl is telling stories again. But some details of Sue Ann’s monologue make her doubt. Having dashed to home Millie finds it robbed. Sue Ann is right! Moreover, the police are able to find the suspect only thanks to the girl as she has stolen the robber’s wallet.
The story is a kind of anecdote, the tone is partly thrilling (in genre the text has something in common with a detective story), but mostly it’s amusing.
Concerning the composition we may find here a long exposition, even a kind of suspense (at neighbour’s); Sue Ann’s story is the complication; the climax comes with the checking of the house and the denouement with an unexpected twist is the revelation that Sue Ann can really help in finding the criminal as she has his wallet.
The conflict of the story is laid in contradiction between mother’s attitude to daughter’s story (grounded on her previous lies) and the real events.
The system of characters includes Millie, Irene (she is Millie’s foil), Sue Ann, the criminal and the policeman with his crew. All of those characters have bright traits that prevent us from considering someone of them to be flat – ‘good-natured’ Irene who is always ready to offer coffee and reassurance; the ‘naughty’ robber with his sneezing and not answering Sue Ann’s ‘God bless you’; ‘grandfather-like’ policeman, who switches into special type of speech ‘for children’ speaking to the girl (‘I’ll buy you the biggest ice cream cone they make, How about that?’).
But the main, contradicting characters here are certainly the mother and the daughter. Millie is not very self-confident. She considers something is wrong with her girl and she is not very sure about the ways of breeding the child that she uses. She doesn’t receive from the daughter the feedback she would like to – may be because Sue Ann is a very unusual girl. She is very imaginative (in fact, Sue Ann lives in her own world) and very brave (she meets the stranger in her house without panic, she even turns out to be more cunning than he is).
The reader can imagine the main characters very vividly thanks to little details (girl’s huge brown eyes and popping pigtails) and epithets (Irene is ‘chunky’). Speech characteristics are also very important. All the characters use modern colloquial vocabulary, phrasal verbs (put up with, make up). Even the title itself is a colloquial expression: ‘big shot’ denotes someone who is important and cool (+ miss Big Shot is a case of antonomasia typical for American colloquial language). Millie’s speech is agitated, that’s why it is abundant in aposiopeses (‘The thing that child can dream up -’, ‘No, as a matter of fact I was so – ‘ etc.), ellipses and parentheses. To depict 4-year-girl’s manner of speaking the author uses a kind of transcription (ask =ast, told=tol’, well=wa-l etc.) and some childish words (hanky, piggy-bank, she calls the officer ‘Mr. Policeman’). We can really see in the text that adults and children speak different languages.
The author wants to draw our attention to the fact that grown-ups and kids are two different worlds, two different cultures. We need patience and empathy to trust, to have serious attitude to children. The story is an allusion to Aesop’s fable about a boy who used to make up stories about wolves. But the author pleads us to check every time. The message here is ’Never judge with a prejudice’.
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