`A Picture of Zoe` by Liam Stewart

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‘A Picture of Zoe’ by Liam Stewart
The Characterisation of Gerry
and the Theme of Prejudice in
the story
1. How does Gerry view his relationship with Zoe at first?
Quote to support your answer.
2. What do his friends think of her?
3. How does Gerry describe his mum? Quote
4. How does Gerry’s reaction to the scene in the Happy
Moon compare to that of Zoe? Quote
Gerry:
Zoe:
Gerry: he thinks it’s entertaining, funny
Zoe: feels sorry for the man
5. Similarly, how does his reaction to the Artist in the
South Pacific compare to that of Zoe? Quote
Gerry:
5. Similarly, how does his reaction to the Artist in the
South Pacific compare to that of Zoe? Quote
Zoe:
Gerry: he is angry, thinks the Artist is taking the
mickey and that Zoe is going to be offended
Zoe: she thinks it’s sweet and values it as it is a
present from Gerry
6. Quote the line which shows that Zoe’s reaction is
not what Gerry believes it is.
She takes care not to crumple the picture,
showing how important it is to her.
7. What do both of these incidents show about
Gerry’s character?
Both of these incidents show us that Gerry
completely misunderstands Zoe and does not
realise what she is really like.
He thinks she is looking down on him and what he
can offer her, but this is not true.
8. Why did Gerry continue to go out with Zoe, despite the
fact that he believed that she was looking down on
him? What does this show about him?
He is physically / sexually attracted to her and this
shows how shallow he is – despite not appearing
to actually like Zoe as he sees her, he keeps going
out with her because he fancies her.
9. What does Gerry’s dream about Zoe suggest about his
view of himself?
He dreams that Zoe is talking about him and mocking him behind
his back, calling him a ‘tramp’. He seems to subconsciously feel,
despite what he says about his pride, that he is not good enough to
be going out with her.
10. How does it affect his behaviour from this
point onwards?
10. How does it affect his behaviour from this
point onwards?
The emotions stirred up by the dream are the catalyst,
fuelled by alcohol, for his confrontation with Zoe. The
feelings of resentment which it stirs up fester away in
him until it all pours out. Note that Gerry said he
doesn’t get aggressive, but that is just how Zoe
describes him, showing that he has no real
understanding of his own feelings and behaviour, or
Zoe’s.
11.
Explain the irony of the song playing on the juke box
in Lauder’s bar: “You’re the only good thing”.
This is ironic because Zoe is ‘the only good thing’ in
Gerry’s life, but he doesn’t realise it and his future
actions mean he is about to lose her.
12. How does Gerry react to the advertisement he reads
in the Situations Vacant? How does this add to what
we already know of his character?
Gerry sees himself as being ‘the wrong sort’, not the kind of
person anyone would want to employ, and his insecurities are
reflected in his view of Zoe – he doesn’t think that he is the
type of person that someone like Zoe would go out with, so he
thinks she must have ulterior motives for being in a
relationship with him and couldn’t just like him for who he is.
13. How does Gerry’s treatment of Dr Kichecky compare
to that of Zoe’s? What picture is being built up of
Gerry’s character?
13. How does Gerry’s treatment of Dr Kichecky compare
to that of Zoe’s? What picture is being built up of
Gerry’s character?
Zoe has given Dr Kichecky £2 and has taken the time to talk
to him and give him her name and address so that he can
return the money to her when his cheque arrives – she is
either very naive, or did not want to embarrass him so
played along with his story.
However, to Gerry he is just an inconvenience getting in his
way and he has no interest in treating him with respect: ‘I
shove ten pence in his hand and try to get past him.’ He
sees a link between himself and the Dr – he thinks they are
both being treated as charity cases by Zoe, and this adds to
his anger as he sets out to confront her.
14. “The grey rain drizzling down all day”...”I step out of
the warm, boozy atmosphere into the grey, pissing
rain. It’s coming down heavy now”... “The rain’s
torrential now.”
• How does the weather reflect the build up to the
climax / turning point of the story?
This starts the link between Gerry’s emotions (caused /
reflected by the dream) and the waterfall / rain.
14. “The grey rain drizzling down all day”...”I step out of
the warm, boozy atmosphere into the grey, pissing
rain. It’s coming down heavy now”... “The rain’s
torrential now.”
• How does the weather reflect the build up to the
climax / turning point of the story?
The weather reflects the emotional turmoil of the climax –
the rain becomes heavier as Gerry’s mood darkens and
his anger and resentment grow, building up to the climax
of his confrontation with Zoe.
This imagery could also be connected to the symbolic
cleansing properties of water as his false view of Zoe is
washed away.
15. Explain the irony of Gerry lying in the gutter in the
rain as Zoe’s bus drives away.
Gerry thought that Zoe saw him as being in the gutter of life.
Without her he is literally there.
16. What does Gerry realise in the days after he splits
up with Zoe? How does this relate to the theme of
prejudice in the story?
Gerry was so obsessed by and convinced by the false picture
of Zoe which he had created in his mind that he made no effort
to actually find out anything about her.
This relates to the theme of prejudice in the story because he
judged her on her appearance, the way she spoke and where
she lived rather than on her personality and character. He did
not bother to find out who she really was, just based his view of
her on assumptions.
17. What is the significance of Gerry, a year later, ending
up “back in the South Pacific hoping for what, I don’t
know”? What is Liam Stewart trying to say to the
reader?
Ending:
Opening:
17. What is the significance of Gerry, a year later, ending
up “back in the South Pacific hoping for what, I don’t
know”? What is Liam Stewart trying to say to the
reader?
The story starts and finishes in the same place – Gerry is
revisiting where he went with Zoe and he tells us that he
has kept the picture the Artist drew of her a year before.
When he was with Zoe he had a false view of her,
reflected by the childish, scribbled portrait of her which
he paid for. She threw the picture back at him
(symbolising her rejection of his view of her) when he
confronted her and revealed his own distorted picture of
her.
A year later he has not moved on, his life is stuck in the
same pattern and he is visiting the same places, perhaps
hoping to bump into Zoe and rekindle their romance.
18. What contrast is Liam Stewart trying to highlight as
Gerry watches the clerk’s treatment of the Artist?
18. What contrast is Liam Stewart trying to highlight as
Gerry watches the clerk’s treatment of the Artist?
The clerk has the same attitude towards the Artist as
Gerry did, and comes across as a nasty, grumpy
man. This is in contrast to Zoe’s reaction to him
when he drew her picture a year before when she
said it was ‘lovely’.
We see Gerry being reflected in the clerk’s
behaviour, and wonder whether this is how he will
end up, ‘a middle-aged guy who looks like a shabby
office clerk’.
There is no comment from Gerry on the clerk’s
behaviour, so it is unclear how self-aware he is, or
whether he still rejects how others see him, like the
clerk who lets the picture fall to the floor.
19. Do you feel sympathy for Gerry? Explain
why / why not.
20. Do you think Liam Stewart has successfully
conveyed his message to the reader about
prejudice?
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