Departures and Arrivals


100 pages
ISBN 0-921368-13-5
DDC C812'.54




Reviewed by Darleen R. Golke

Darleen R. Golke is a teacher and librarian at Fort Richmond Collegiate
in Winnipeg.


Award-winning author Carol Shields sets her first published drama,
Departures and Arrivals, in an airport arrival and departure lounge. As
in her novels and short stories, she focuses attention on ordinary
events and ordinary people trying to survive in, and make sense of, a
world that is often chaotic.

The 22 vignettes comprising the drama play as microcosmic glimpses into
the lives of the “travellers”—businessmen, celebrities,
journalists, politicians, “jocks,” lovers, philanderers, families
parting and reuniting, star athletes, lonely men and women, seeking
companionship—all these arrivals and departures described by one
traveller as a reflection of life, a “going through gateways.” The
recurring, garbled airport public address announcement ties the
vignettes together, although any of the scenes could be omitted without
damaging the general tempo of the drama. The dialogue of the vignettes
is sometimes absurd.

Presented in 1984 at the Black Hole Theatre at the University of
Manitoba, where Shields is currently teaching part-time, Departures and
Arrivals, like most drama, stages better than it reads. The characters,
as reflections of “real” people, struggle to comprehend the
“historical dynamic” of their lives and leave the audience and the
reader sympathizing with the cleaner’s conclusion that “going
cancels out coming . . . and that means no one’s going anywhere.”


Shields, Carol., “Departures and Arrivals,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 15, 2024,