How Late It Was, How Late: Online Discussion

by joeyjddavis

Joey Davis

How Late It Was, How Late tells the story of Sammy, a criminal who wakes up after a weekend of heavy drinking with no memory of the events that have taken place. He is blinded in a struggle with some plainclothes police officers and the novel launches into the story of the next week in his life as if Sammy himself was narrating.

One of the features that sets this novel apart is the fact that it is portrayed solely as Sammy’s internal struggle. The narration, gives a very hazy version of the events taking place. This is partially to do with Sammy’s biases and opinions, and also to do with the fact that he has been blinded and cannot necessarily relay the events accurately because his perception of people has changed.

One thing Sammy’s narration gives us, as readers, is a strong view into the attitudes and mannerisms of the Scottish working class. By his descriptions of people and places we can begin to deduct what his views on life and the world are, and on other people. Sammy tends to be very untrusting of people in general, but surprisingly untrusting of those he portrays as members of a higher social standing. This is shown through the narration of the novel.

For Discussion:

To what degree do Sammy’s mannerisms and diction alter the way we, as readers, see the world and other characters in this novel?

Are we able to get a stronger sense of Sammy’s character through the way he speaks?

As we do not know much about Sammy before his blindness occurs, can we assume that his blindness amplifies the distrust he has of others, or is it likely that his character is one who simply has trust issues? Could this distrust also be a result of his past criminal activities?

In what way does Sammy’s general distrust of others affect the development of the story? Is it possible that we would not see so much of a struggle if Sammy was quicker to trust other people?

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7 Comments to “How Late It Was, How Late: Online Discussion”

  1. With Sammy’s mannerism and diction it will give a bias of the characters and the world around him. It is a benefit to be able to see things threw another persons eyes ,but as we do not know much about Sammy’s past his thoughts and views of people and life, is affected by past occurrences either negative or positive .

    Through Sammy’s diction we are able to get a stronger sense of him. He constant slander and the way he talks to people seems to give a sense of ruggedness. Also his diction being of Glasgow and not “of the queen” like other people of Glasgow as Sammy comments in the book shows that he is proud to be Scottish.

  2. The way we, as readers, see the world and other characters in the novel are very altered; they could be seen as complete opposites of who they really are through Sammy’s mannerism and way of diction. We only get to see their reactions to Sammy, which would make them seem, perhaps, prejudiced or racist, or however else he assumes them to be because he is unpleasant to them first. That being said, we only get to view the world and the characters through how Sammy perceives them and he chooses to see everyone negatively without any evident reason in particular. We do not get a chance to see what the world is like or who the people are because we don’t see it through their own points of view.
    The way Sammy speaks is the probably the easiest way to determine what kind of a person he is. Through his accent, assuming that the reader could recognize it and knows what kind of people have that accent, he/she can determine what kind of neighborhood he grew up in and his level of education. And since he swears in almost every sentence, one could presume that he is a working-class citizen, or perhaps a violent person. Through acccent and choice of words, it is easy to jump to plausible assumptions about one’s personality.

  3. I believe that Sammy’s distrust is a manifestation of the way he has lived his own life. We can deduce from his description of the surroundings he is familiar with, that he lives in a very rough, working class area of a big city, he is certainly no stranger to the police system – he has lived the life and doesn’t trust anyone, just as everyone else probably doesn’t trust him! The story chugs along slowly and warily, in just the same way Sammy deals with his life and as I think the story only acts to give shape to Sammy’s consciousness, the story moves at an intentionally slow pace.

  4. mannerisms and diction alter view of world and characters

    It is not so much Sammy’s mannerisms and diction that alter the way the reader views the world and the other characters, but how the reader is able to view Sammy’s mannerisms and diction that alter one’s view of the world and the other characters; that being from Sammy’s mind. If this novel had been written from the third person, the reader would still be aware of all of Sammy’s mannerisms, just maybe not understand his mannerisms as well. I guess this lack of understanding would be due to the lack of diction- his thoughts. So I suppose the reader’s view of Sammy’s world would be very different with the lack of diction, but would change very little in terms of his mannerisms.

  5. oops, just ignore that funny little sentence at the top of my comment. That was for my own purposes, but I forgot to delete it.

  6. Instead of restating what has already been said, I’m just going to mention that in his use of Sammy as the sole narrator, Kelman probably intended to “alter” and purposely confine us, as readers, to see the world and other characters in a particular way. Since all that we have to rely on are Sammy’s actions, opinions and often raw vocabulary, our own perceptions of his reality and all the elements he is dealing with are completely swayed towards this one side.
    Also, although Sammy’s speech does give us a strong and uninhibited sense of his character, it could also be said that we are missing a lot of it since we’re only being presented his own (possibly biased) view of himself. Despite the fact that the reader may feel like they know the character in a personal way, a lot is also taken away from this point of view (as opposed to say, the objective observations of a third person/outside narrator describing Sammy.)

  7. Kelman’s uncommon technique in writing from the frame of mind of Sammy, the impaired narrator, is inventive and successful in convincing the reader to follow his intended path. It is therefore perhaps unavoidable to breathe the character of Sammy, and suffer alongside him and the process to which his outlook on life functions. Though not everyone can associate themselves with this protagonist’s habitual methods, the naturalness in his habits articulate an honest and believable lifestyle. In this way we as the readers are capable of possibly feeling comfortable with Sammy as go along with his mannerisms and accordingly view his surroundings by way of his senses.

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