The fact that “Islands” is made up of thirty-three short scenes is crucial to its storytelling format. Although they combine to form a chronological narrative, these scenes are like brief glimpses into specific moments of the narrator’s childhood, or individual islands of memory that can seem somewhat distinct. In fact, some of the scenes focus on specific details that do not at first seem to correspond to the main point and progression of the story, such as the narrator’s vivid description of the fish that he sees while swimming. All of the scenes are important either in developing the sense of place or developing the plot, but Hemon’s emphasis on their distance from each other reinforces the sense that the narrator is searching through his clumps of significant memories to find the story. The format of the story, therefore, may be intended to imitate the way that the mind accesses its childhood memories. It is also significant in drawing attention to the idea of islands and isolation, ideas that frequently recur in the narrative and underscore the setting of the story as well as some of its content.
First-Person Childhood Perspective
Hemon is adept at developing a believable first-person narrative voice that speaks and thinks like a nine-year-old boy. Although there is the suggestion, given its place in the larger collection, that “Islands” is being told from the standpoint of an adult looking back on a childhood experience, Hemon is nevertheless careful to enter the narrator’s childhood mind in his telling. The narrator’s language and the nature of his observations reflect the curiosity, attention to detail, and impressionability of a nine-year-old. Hemon is thereby able to allow his readers to enter the world of a child and bring to life the true significance of the trip to Mljet.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 22, Aleksandar Hemon, Published by Gale Group, 2010