Home Invasions in The Accidental and There But For The

Authors: Henesy, M.

Conference: Ali Smith and C21 Fiction

Dates: 7 September 2013


Ali Smith uses key characters who present a sense of ‘otherness’ in all of her novels; usually they are social outcasts, whether it be that they are homeless or simply socially inept in some way. In The Accidental and There But For The, the outcast characters of Amber and Miles become invasive catalysts as they enter and refuse to leave the homes of other characters, unsettling the families’ seemingly pleasant lives. They open up the domestic environment to scrutiny, allowing individuals’ personalities and feelings to be seen and explored.

In The Accidental, Amber has what appears to be an almost omniscient ability to know what is going on in other characters’ heads; she appears to be a strange amalgamation of cultural and cinematic references whose directness unnerves the other characters into trusting, or at the very least reacting to, her. The other characters reminisce and worry, but her presence seems to confuse them into dealing with their issues, almost like scatty, home-invading psychotherapist.

In There But For The, we are told early on that Miles visited a house, locked himself in an upstairs room, and then stayed there, uninvited, for weeks. We learn about Miles through other characters’ memories of him rather than from him directly; and Miles’ action unsettles the normalising narratives created by the other characters, who then have to confront the possibility that there is no single/simple truth.

In both novels Smith uses the invasions as a way to explore the nuances of what makes a family in our modern society, and how identities are formed and impacted on by those around us. This paper will aim to explore these points.

Source: Manual