Six Stories and an Essay by Andrea Levy: The Empty Pram

Six Stories & an Essay

According to the introduction, Andrea Levy had written The Empty Pram as a commissioned piece for a women’s magazine. However, the editor of the magazine had refused to print the story saying it’s too controversial!

The Empty Pram is set in 1948 and the narrator of the story had just moved to England from Jamaica with her husband. While she was cleaning the shabby room her ‘fool husband’ had rented in a house they share with a whole bunch of other people, she hears a gentle knock on the door.

When I opened the door a little boy was standing there. Looking up at me with his mouth agape, he stood no taller than to my knees. And this boy was carrying a baby. Two skinny white arms awkwardly clasped it to his chest.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked him.

He grinned, showing me the gummy gap at the front of his mouth, ‘This is my baby,’ he said.

Our narrator realizes the rascal of a boy is up to mischief and motherly instincts take over her. After struggling with the boy she finally manages to pull the baby from him, at which point the boy takes off leaving her with the unknown baby. But she follows the boy out into the street, trying to find the parents of the baby.

There I saw a pram. Mothers in this country often left their babies outside so they might breathe some fresh air; they seem to have no fear of it being abducted. Yet there I was holding a stolen baby.

She figures if she finds an empty pram, that would solve her problem. So she keeps looking, until she hears a scream coming from three English women filled with horror and shock looking into another pram. She rushes to them, and the mother of the baby is indeed in the group. When she hands over the baby to the mother, you can see suspicion building up on these women. She tries to explain what happened, but she’s new to England, so there is a language barrier and the women seem not to comprehend what she’s saying. She’s a colored woman, what was she doing with the baby? Probably she tried to kidnap it? You can see the fear and racism in them.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I believe certain aspects of the story are valid even today. In our society some are being unfairly judged by others based on their skin color, and this story lets us have a closer look at these prejudices and improve ourselves.

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