Like The Eye of the Hurricane, first-person narrative is used in A Time to Keep. Consider the validity and impartiality of Bill the narrator. This is a character who is often involved in confrontations and the first-person narrative only allows us to see these confrontations from Bill’s point of view. Like Barclay in The Eye of the Hurricane, Bill is at times an outsider of the community.
In A Time to Keep, fire and light symbolize the changing fortunes of relationships. When Bill and Ingi first arrive back in their croft, Brown writes that
blue smoke was rising from the roof now. The first true fire had been lit. This symbolizes the start of their relationship and new life together.
Brown writes in section two that
always the smoke was rising out of the roof, sometimes gray smoke, sometimes blue, sometimes black. But the flame beat in the hearth, the house was alive. The different colours from the fire represent the ups and downs the relationship experiences.
We learn that when Ingi
lit the paraffin lamp. The flame came up squint – she still didn’t know how to trim a wick. This symbolizes her lack of experience in running the household.
Ingi, a source of much of the positivity in the story, is closely associated with light. When she dies, she
lay in bed, long and pale as a quenched candle. This not only symbolizes the end of Ingi’s life, but the end of the relationship between Ingi and Bill.
As the story closes, Brown writes that:
Anna broke the red core with the poker...the room was suddenly alive with the rosy shifting dapple.
This symbolizes the start of Anna and Bill’s relationship. Anna is trying to start the relationship. The fire represents a relationship and all that goes with it – hope, love, warmth and danger.