This study guide will help you analyse the text “Baglady” by A. S. Byatt. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and message.
Presentation of the text
Author: A. S. Byatt
Date of Publication: 1998
Genre: Short Story
A. S. Byatt is the pen name of British author Antonia Susan Duffy (1936). Byatt is among Britain’s top 50 contemporary writers and has received the Booker Prize for her literary work. She writes novels, short stories, and poetry.
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The Good Fortune Mall is a symbol of the upper-class environment. While Lady Scroop sees it as “Aladdin’s Cave of Treasures”, Daphne sees it as “an army barracks or a prison block”. The fact that it evokes such different feelings in the two women suggests that it is a place designed to appeal to people like Lady Scroop, who were born and raised in an environment of idleness and sophistication. It is a place where the upper-class people feel at home and enjoy, while people like Daphne, who only try to pass as upper class, perceive it as restrictive and uncomfortable. Ironically, at the end, Daphne does not want to leave the Mall, because, even though she hates it, the Mall is the domain of the upper class, where she has been trying so hard to fit in. By staying in the Mall, she wants to prove to the policeman that she is not a baglady, but a “lady”.
Daphne’s transformation into a baglady is another important symbol in the story. A “baglady” is a homeless woman who carries her possessions in shopping bags. Daphne becomes progressively more run-down and unkempt, until her metamorphosis into a “baglady” is complete. When she first stops at a ladies’ room to restore her make-up, she notices she looks disheveled.