Classics English Literature

Roy Spivey by Miranda July

Summary of the Story

Miranda July’s Roy Spivey is a short story that revolves around a woman who while travelling to an unmentioned destination happens to seat next to a Holly Wood personality. She is cautious to mention that this was the second time that she sat in an airplane near an icon; the first time being with Jason Kid, a sports personality with the New Jersey Nets, while the second time it was with an acting personality whom she gives the name Roy Spivey for the sake of ambiguity (Rushdie & Pitlor, 2010). As she travels for the first time using first class, the narrator is nervous about her seat mate and she just sits put for the first hour as he sleeps. Upon his awakening, the narrator and the celebrity spark a neat conversation where they indulge in flattery and childish games that make the narrator feel comfortable around him such that they share intimate thoughts and details concerning each other’s lives; him about his wife and her about the visit to the bathroom where she indulges in grooming activities of washing her armpits and wetting her skirt for her to appear more presentable.

The idea of being so comfortable with the celebrity forces the narrator to think through her life and even make her childhood resolution that she would kill her parents for her to be with the celebrity. As the two individuals part, Roy gives the narrator his telephone contacts, which have a missing digit that she should memorize for security purposes. The number which is identified as four turns out to be her lucky number even in her futuristic life when she gets married and bears children. In her aged life, the narrator stumbles upon the paper with the contacts, and feels a wave of an overlooked prospect. She tries to call up Roy but the contact line is out of order. It that moment of mental paralysis, she realizes that she has wasted a one-time chance that she can never accrue back as darkness engulfs her whole frame and surrounding denoting the gloominess of the future.


Conflicts: Internal conflicts in the story are exemplified by thoughts while external conflicts are revealed through actions. As the story begins, the narrator struggles with the idea of talking to Roy based on her initial unwelcoming experience with Jason Kidd and this is indicated by her opening and shutting of the eyes (Rushdie, & Pitlor, 2010). As she moves to the bathrooms, her thoughts about being plain and smelly precede her actions to wash her armpits and wet her skirt in her bid to create a better impression on Roy. The narrator upon her return to the seat has her hand bitten by the actor and to this she reacts with anxiousness as she did not decipher the meaning of the bite. After the biting exercise, the narrator tries to rebuff her thoughts concerning her lifestyle for close to half by replacing them with thoughts of the life that she yearned to have. As the seatmates pass their goodbyes at the airport through the coded message, Roy hesitates leaving her a reflection of the conflict within him. The narrator is also fixated at the parting point wanting Roy to speak to her again. The inability to come in terms with letting Roy go is evident in the mantra that she coins of using the number four when faced with difficult situations-painful deflowering experience, father’s death, sore surgery, and when her daughter got into problems while in Mexico-since it made her feel secure as the time Roy held her hand in the airplane.

Contrasts/Oppositions: Jason Kidd being a sports icon uses third class in his flight, which contrasts to his social class. This further contrasts with the event where the narrator, a simple low class woman flies first class in her second journey. Although Jason and Roy are both celebrities, their personalities are contrasting with the former being a rude and snobbish individual and the latter being kind and funny. Roy’s actions towards the narrator’s experience in the bathroom where he smells her blouse is a contrast to what celebrities would revert to, isolating themselves from a smelly person. The internal and external conflicts identified above are indicators of the contrasts that the characters resorted to in action while their thoughts and feelings dictated the opposite (Rushdie, & Pitlor, 2010).

Irony: As the narrator and Roy converse about Ms. M (Roy’s wife), he asserts that all the information mentioned in the print media was true by giving the example of her eating disorder yet when the narrator questions about Roy being mentioned in cases of extramarital affairs in the prints, he negates the statements as being untrue. This is verbal irony since Roy’s disguised intention is to communicate that it is true and this is indicated by the fact that he offers the narrator his contacts and prompts her to call him. As the two travelers part, Roy uses the word ‘great’ as a way of indicating his appreciation to the airport worker yet her presence was not a great experience as it shortened his bond with the woman he was greatly attracted to.

Contradictions: The narrator contradicts herself in the dialogue that she has with Roy after the arm biting experience. When Roy asks the narrator where she wants to bite him back as an indication that she also loves him, she declines prompting Roy to question her feelings towards him (Rushdie, & Pitlor, 2010). To this she asserts that she does love him and then bites him upon the second offer. Roy’s assertion that the print media relays true information contradicts when he says that the stories about extra marital affairs were untrue. The narrator uses the number at very many instances and situations in her life, yet only once for the intended purpose that it was given to her. The narrator gave up the person whom she believed that she would kill her parents for and never mourned for him yet when her father died, it is the thought of Roy made possible by the chanting of number four that gave her the strength.

Ambiguity: This is achieved by the use of words that create a paradoxical situation. For instance, after the narrator parts with Roy, she tries to locate him and when she cannot find him, she comments that he is ‘nowhere’ and ‘everywhere’ creating ambiguity as to the meaning that she wants to pass along.  


Setting: The story is set on board an airplane at the initial part while the latter is set in the future life of the narrator as it encompasses her life as a wife and mother (Rushdie, & Pitlor, 2010). The plane is symbolic of motion and this is used to denote the different motions that the narrator has as a young woman regarding her former lovers and parents. With touch down, the narrator’s life came to a halt: she got married and settled down. With the narrator being moved from third class to first class, this is symbolic of her maturity concerning life’s situations.     

Characters: The narrator is the protagonist (main character) as the whole story revolves around her encounters with the two mentioned celebrities and how this shaped her future life. Without her, there would be no story to tell since someone else would have sat next to Roy and a different story would probably be given concerning the whole situation. Roy is the major character in the story as he is a big influence to the narrator’s life (Rushdie, & Pitlor, 2010). Three quarter of the plot covers his encounter with the narrator and the great impact that she still feels in her adulthood. Jason Kidd, the flight attendant, the narrator’s husband, daughter and parents are minor characters in the story since they play supportive roles that are only used for plot advancement.   

Point of View: The story is told from the point of view (POV) of the narrator using first person narration. This is seen by the use of the words ‘I, mine and me’. This style of narration has played a significant role in the story as it allows the reader to learn of the narrator’s thoughts and get to view things through the narrator’s perceptions. This infuses an element of limitation that governs the reader to viewing the world as they see it.

Plot Terms: The beginning of the story creates the foundation for the conflict, which is created when the narrator and Roy part. This is because the two have had a connection with each other on the plane such that letting go is hard. The middle of the plot encompasses the narrator’s life as a mother and wife and her obsession with number four. The climax is indicated by the decision and action to call Roy only for her to be disappointed (falling action). With this realization, the denouement (end) of the plot is attained (Rushdie, & Pitlor, 2010).

Symbols/ Imagery: The number four is universally used to signify the steadiness, firmness and stamina. Stability is drawn from the shape that a square takes and the earth-related components marked by the seasons, cardinal points, and elements. The narrator uses this number to gain stability in her adult life during all the situations that caused some shock or turmoil in her life. This she did by verbally invoking the number for the desired stability. Its repeated use signifies the worth that it plays in the story. Color pink is used twice and in universal terms, pink is used to represent fine physical conditions and life as related to newborns that are pink in color. It is also used to indicate a personality that is childish. In the story, the telephone number is written across a pink towels and this is an imagery of the child-like enthusiasm and eagerness that the narrator receives and guard the precious number with. Darkness used at the end of the story symbolizes despair and misery as the narrator comes to term with her loss.





Work Cited:

Rushdie, Salman, & Pitlor, Heidi. The Best American Short Stories 2008. Lewisville: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Print.



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