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Old Love by Jeffrey Archer: A Short Story Analysis

Old Love by Jeffrey Archer: A Review

Old Love is a short story by Jeffrey Archer, one of the most popular and prolific writers of our time. The story was first published in 1980 as part of a collection called A Quiver Full of Arrows. It is a tale of love, rivalry, and revenge that spans over four decades.

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In this article, I will give you a brief overview of what Old Love is about, who are the main characters, and what is the theme of the story. Then, I will summarize the plot and analyze the author's style, tone, and literary devices. Finally, I will conclude with my personal opinion and recommendation of this story.


What is Old Love about?

Old Love is a story that follows the lives of two Oxford students, William Hatchard and Philippa Jameson, who are both aspiring poets and fierce competitors. They first meet in 1936 at a poetry competition where they tie for first place. They develop a mutual admiration and attraction for each other, but they also harbor a deep resentment and jealousy.

The story chronicles their encounters over the years, as they both pursue their literary careers and personal lives. They cross paths at various events and occasions, such as award ceremonies, book launches, weddings, and funerals. They always exchange polite words and compliments, but they never reveal their true feelings or intentions.

The story culminates in 1977, when they are both invited to receive honorary degrees from Oxford University. They finally decide to confess their love for each other and settle their rivalry once and for all. However, things do not go as planned and they end up facing a shocking twist of fate.

Who are the main characters?

The main characters of Old Love are William Hatchard and Philippa Jameson. They are both complex and dynamic characters who undergo significant changes throughout the story.

William Hatchard is a handsome and charming young man who comes from a wealthy family. He is confident and ambitious, but also arrogant and selfish. He believes that he is destined to become a great poet and he does not hesitate to use his connections and influence to advance his career. He marries a beautiful woman named Elizabeth, who supports him unconditionally but also suffers from his neglect and infidelity.

Philippa Jameson is a smart and talented young woman who comes from a poor family. She is humble and hardworking, but also stubborn and proud. She believes that she has to prove herself as a poet and she does not accept any favors or compromises. She marries a kind man named Edward, who respects her independence but also longs for her affection and attention.

What is the theme of the story?

The theme of Old Love is the power and persistence of love. The story shows how love can inspire and motivate people to achieve their dreams, but also how it can blind and consume them with obsession and hatred. The story explores how love can survive and endure through time, distance, and adversity, but also how it can be wasted and lost by pride, fear, and deception.

The story also touches on other themes, such as the nature and value of poetry, the role and influence of social class, the impact and consequences of war, and the meaning and importance of honor and loyalty.


How does the story begin?

The story begins in 1936, when William Hatchard and Philippa Jameson are both students at Oxford University. They are both finalists in a poetry competition organized by the university's literary society. They recite their poems in front of a large audience and a panel of judges. Their poems are equally brilliant and original, and they both receive a standing ovation. The judges announce that they have decided to award the first prize to both of them.

William and Philippa meet for the first time on stage, where they shake hands and congratulate each other. They feel an instant attraction and admiration for each other, but they also sense a rivalry and hostility. They exchange a few words and agree to meet again at the reception. However, they are soon separated by their friends and admirers, who praise them for their performance and offer them drinks and invitations.

What happens in the middle?

The story then jumps to 1946, when William and Philippa are both successful poets who have published several books and won several awards. They meet again at a ceremony where they are both nominated for the prestigious Hawthornden Prize. They greet each other cordially and compliment each other's work. They pretend to be happy for each other, but they secretly hope to win the prize.

The winner is announced and it is William Hatchard. He goes up to the podium to accept the prize and deliver his speech. He thanks his wife Elizabeth, who is sitting in the audience, for her love and support. He also thanks Philippa Jameson, who he calls his "worthy opponent" and his "old friend". He says that he owes his success to her, because she has always challenged him and inspired him to improve his craft. He invites her to join him on stage, where he hugs her and kisses her cheek. Philippa smiles politely and claps for him, but she feels a surge of anger and envy.

The story then jumps to 1956, when William and Philippa are both established poets who have gained international fame and recognition. They meet again at a party hosted by a mutual friend, who is celebrating his new book launch. They chat casually and catch up on each other's lives. They pretend to be interested in each other's news, but they secretly compare themselves to each other.

William tells Philippa that he has just returned from a tour in America, where he has given lectures and readings at several universities. He says that he has enjoyed the experience, but he has also missed his wife Elizabeth, who is pregnant with their first child. He says that he is looking forward to becoming a father and settling down in his country house.

Philippa tells William that she has just finished writing her latest book, which she considers her masterpiece. She says that she has worked on it for three years, during which she has isolated herself from the world. She says that she has sacrificed everything for her art, including her marriage to Edward, who has left her for another woman. She says that she does not regret her decision, because she believes that poetry is more important than anything else.

How does the story end?

The story then jumps to 1977, when William and Philippa are both elderly poets who have achieved legendary status and respect. They meet again at Oxford University, where they are both invited to receive honorary degrees for their contribution to literature. They sit next to each other at the ceremony, where they listen to the speeches of the professors and the students.

William leans over to Philippa and whispers in her ear that he has something important to tell her. He says that he has always loved her since the day they met at the poetry competition. He says that he has never stopped thinking about her or writing about her. He says that he has never been happy with Elizabeth, who he married only out of convenience and duty. He says that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her.

or writing about him. She says that she has never been satisfied with Edward, who she married only out of pity and loneliness. She says that she wants to spend the rest of her life with him too.

They both agree to leave the ceremony and run away together. They hold hands and walk towards the exit, where they see a taxi waiting for them. They get in the taxi and tell the driver to take them to the airport. They kiss passionately and embrace each other.

However, as the taxi drives away, they hear a loud explosion behind them. They turn around and see that the university building has been bombed by a terrorist group. They realize that they have escaped death by a narrow margin. They also realize that they have left behind their honorary degrees, their books, their poems, and their reputations.

They look at each other with horror and regret. They wonder if they have made a mistake by choosing love over poetry. They wonder if they have betrayed their old love for each other or their old love for their art. They wonder if they have gained or lost anything by running away together.


What is the author's style and tone?

The author's style is simple and elegant, using clear and concise language to convey the plot and the characters. The author uses a third-person omniscient narrator, who knows everything about the characters and their thoughts and feelings. The author also uses flashbacks to show the different stages of the characters' lives and their relationship.

The author's tone is ironic and cynical, using humor and sarcasm to highlight the contrast between the characters' appearance and reality. The author also uses irony to create suspense and surprise in the story, especially in the ending. The author shows how life can be unpredictable and cruel, and how love can be both a blessing and a curse.

What are the literary devices used in the story?

The author uses several literary devices to enhance the story and its meaning. Some of them are:

  • Alliteration: The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words, such as "poetry competition", "worthy opponent", "old friend", etc.

  • Metaphor: A comparison between two things that are not alike, such as "a quiver full of arrows", which refers to a collection of short stories.

  • Simile: A comparison between two things using "like" or "as", such as "he smiled like a shark", which implies that he is predatory and dangerous.

  • Personification: Giving human qualities to non-human things, such as "the clock ticked impatiently", which suggests that time is running out.

  • Symbolism: Using an object or an action to represent an idea or a theme, such as "the honorary degrees", which symbolize the characters' achievements and reputations.

  • Foreshadowing: Giving hints or clues about what will happen later in the story, such as "they had escaped death by a narrow margin", which foreshadows the bombing at the end.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the story?

The story has many strengths, such as:

  • The plot is original and engaging, with a twist at the end that surprises and shocks the reader.

  • The characters are realistic and relatable, with flaws and virtues that make them human.

  • The theme is universal and timeless, exploring the nature and consequences of love in different contexts.

  • The style is smooth and elegant, using appropriate language and devices to convey the message.

The story also has some weaknesses, such as:

  • The plot is somewhat predictable and clichéd, following a typical pattern of love-hate relationship between rivals.

  • The characters are somewhat stereotypical and flat, lacking depth and development throughout the story.

  • The theme is ambiguous and confusing, leaving the reader unsure about what the author wants to say or imply.

  • The style is sometimes too simple and plain, lacking flair and creativity to capture the reader's attention.


What is the main message of the story?

The main message of the story is that love is a powerful and complex emotion that can inspire and motivate people, but also blind and consume them. The story shows how love can be a source of happiness and fulfillment, but also a cause of misery and regret. The story also shows how love can be a matter of choice and chance, and how it can be influenced by external factors and circumstances.

How does the story relate to real life?

The story relates to real life in many ways, such as:

  • It reflects the reality of the literary world, where competition and rivalry are common and sometimes fierce.

  • It illustrates the dilemma of choosing between love and career, which many people face in their lives.

  • It depicts the impact of war and terrorism, which affect many people around the world.

  • It demonstrates the importance of honesty and courage, which are essential for any relationship.

Would you recommend this story to others?

I would recommend this story to others, because it is a well-written and interesting story that explores a universal theme. It is a story that can appeal to different audiences and tastes, as it combines romance, drama, humor, and suspense. It is also a story that can provoke thought and discussion, as it raises questions and issues that are relevant and meaningful.


  • Who is Jeffrey Archer?

Jeffrey Archer is a British author, politician, and former prisoner. He has written over 30 books, including novels, short stories, plays, and non-fiction. He is one of the best-selling authors in the world, with over 275 million copies sold. He is also known for his controversial and scandalous life, involving fraud, perjury, adultery, and imprisonment.

  • What is A Quiver Full of Arrows?

A Quiver Full of Arrows is a collection of 12 short stories by Jeffrey Archer, published in 1980. It is his second book and his first collection of short stories. The stories are set in different countries and periods, ranging from ancient Greece to modern England. The stories are based on real events or people that Archer encountered or heard about in his travels.

  • What is the Hawthornden Prize?

The Hawthornden Prize is a British literary award that was established in 1919 by Alice Warrender, a Scottish philanthropist. It is named after Hawthornden Castle, where Warrender lived and hosted many writers. It is awarded annually to the best work of imaginative literature by a British or Commonwealth writer under the age of 41. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious literary prizes in the UK.

  • What is the difference between H1, H2, H3, and H4 headings?

H1, H2, H3, and H4 headings are HTML tags that indicate the level of importance or hierarchy of the headings in a web page or document. H1 headings are the most important and prominent, usually used for the main title or headline. H2 headings are the second most important and prominent, usually used for subheadings or sections. H3 headings are the third most important and prominent, usually used for sub-subheadings or subsections. H4 headings are the fourth most important and prominent, usually used for sub-sub-subheadings or sub-subsections.

  • What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the process of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to a website or web page from search engines. SEO involves using various techniques and strategies to make a website or web page more relevant, useful, and attractive to users and search engines. SEO aims to increase the visibility and ranking of a website or web page in organic or unpaid search results.



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