The Socio-Political Dimensions of Glasgow Urban Space in Alasdair Gray’s Short Stories “You” (1993) and “A Night Off” (1996)
Exposing and denouncing power abuses and inequalities – political, economic or emotional – was one of the main political achievements of Alasdair Gray’s fiction. This paper aims to analyse nationality, class and gender, mainly, as socio-political parameters which condition the human interaction with space in two of Alasdair Gray’s short stories: “You” (1993) and “A Night Off” (1996). Both short stories, set in Glasgow, juxtapose the relationship between working-class Glaswegians and members of the British class elite. The main characters in “You”, a working-class Scotswoman and an upper middle-class Englishman, perform almost opposite engagements with space. The Scotswoman – working-class, Scottish and female – suffers a triple marginalisation which hinders her free use of space while the Englishman – upper middle-class, posh English and male – boldly occupies public space, tyrannically dominating others from a sexist and classist position of superiority. In “A Night Off”, the Glasgow working-class space of 1965 is photographically appropriated and fetishized from the imperialist, classist and racist worldview of London-based Scottish photographer Tony McCrimmon. Through the combined portrayal of deindustrialising Glasgow and McCrimmon’s imperialist perception of the city, two urban visions are contrasted: one that suffuses working-class pride and melancholy and McCrimmon’s classist vision which equates the working classes with savagery. In conclusion, the negative portrayal of the British class elite characters in both “You” and “A Night Off” as narcissistic, classist, sexist and imperialist beings, functions as a reminder of Gray’s opposition to unequal hegemonic value-systems – Imperialism, Racism, Classism and Patriarchy – emphasising his belief in equal and balanced communities where space and the people who make it are fully respected.
Paula Argüeso San Martín, University of Oviedo, Spain