Growing up is a difficult task, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Especially the teenage years can be tough, as they have a massive impact on your future.
These are the years where you learn about yourself and create your own identity. The development and changes each adolescent goes through are enormous.
They feel this pressure from family, friends, school and society. This is what the protagonist in Roddy Doyle’s short story Smile is dealing with. Smile is a short story written by the Irish writer Roddy Doyle, and it was published in 2016 in the magazine Granta.
Smile is narrated by Victor Forde, who is the main character. He is a first-person restricted narrator because we see the events from his point of view and the reader only gets an insight into his thoughts and feelings. Therefore he is not as reliable as he could be, due to his limited point of view.
The story takes place in Ireland, at a Catholic school, which is indicated in the language used by the characters. "My mates were with me: all men were fuckin 'eejits." (p.1, l.4)
Victor uses the word ‘eejit’, which is an Irish slang for idiot. Victor Forde describes the Catholic school as a memory and mostly uses his perspective as a teenager to recount the events.
Victor Forde starts off as a naïve freshman, who had just started secondary school at an all-boys Catholic school, but his character develops throughout the plot.
At the time of the narration, Victor Forde is an adult and thus tells the story as one long flashback that stretches over 3 of his teenager-years. “I’m older than he was back then and I think I recognize it now: he was miserable. He was lonely.” (p. 1, l. 14-15).
This quote shows that the protagonist is dynamic because he has grown up and is now able to see things from a mature perspective. But as a teenager, he could not understand men. He would mock them with his classmates. “They seemed far away, in another room or country. I didn’t understand men. I wasn’t alone.
My mates were with me: all men were fuckin’ eejits.” (l. 3-4) This is a development that happened after the events of the short story, but within the novel, it is also shown how the protagonist develops.
In the beginning, he is an insecure young guy, who soon becomes a target of bullying. Every freshman would get bullied by the older pupils and Victor Forde did not seem to mind as he knew his peer pupils were in it together.