Analysis of Toby Litt's 'Launderama'

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Toby Litt's story "Launderama"

Toby Litt’s story “Launderama” is story of a man living opposite a launderette (laundromat) who keeps seeing a young woman undressing and getting inside of the washing machines. This woman turns out to be ghost as she appears and disappears and no one other than the narrator is able to see it. The story is given from a first person point of view with the narrator giving a vivid description of what he observes across his workplace. After several attempts to look for a decent job, the narrator settles for being and author of technical manuals and occasional 'anonymous erotic' novel. The narrator lives across Launderama, a coin operated laundry and dry cleaning Centre. Though he lives just directly opposite to the Launderama, the narrator makes a decision to buy a washer-dryer for himself. It is during one of the evenings when he is about to close his workplace just as he is winding up on going through some of the manuals he had composed during the day is when he notices something strange and ghostly across the street in one of the laundry and dry cleaning shops. A ghostly woman appears to be undressing then goes into the washing machine only for her to appear after the laundry machine stops, untouched and alive. It is this costly seen that seems to haunt the narrator and which forms the basis of the story as the ghostly woman keeps on recurring to the narrator on several occasions as the story develops. The story is of typical archetypal nature since it employs the use of ghostly images and dreams identical to archetypal critics.

Key terms: Laundromat/ Launderama, Archetypal, Ghostly, Quest, washer-dryer.

Thesis: Toby Litt’s story explores a ghostly figure from a rather compelling and fascinating style, tone and subject matter that even those who don’t normally like ghost stories find themselves found of the story.

Archetypal critics believe that literature is based on recurring images, characters, narrative designs and themes. Toby Litt’s story explores some of the archetypal elements as the story develops. The images of a ghostly woman that keep recurring to the narrator forms part of the archetypal criticism that is evident from the story. The narrative design that that the narrator explores which entails the vivid description of events and images in the story also forms part of the archetypal representation in the story. The story begins with the narrator noticing a rather strange scene of a woman who undresses before getting into the laundry cleaner. This scene prompts the narrator to be concerned which makes him even make an attempt to try and save her from getting washed and suffocated inside the laundry cleaner unaware that the woman was a ghost at first. His attempt of asking the owner of the Laundry cleaner to stop the machine since he had seen a woman enter it even makes him look insane since other than him, no one else had noticed the woman he was talking about not even the customer who was standing by waiting for her clothes to be cleaned and dried.

According to the Archetypal Criticism Theory, the form and function of literary works is shaped by symbols, myths and imagery. Litt’s story is no different as recurring images as well as the narrative designs have profound say in determining the course that the story takes. It is the images of the ghostly woman that appear to the narrator that helps the author develop the story. Without the ghostly images, the story would not be as fascinating as it is. The author succeeds in ensuring that the readers of his story are not only fascinated by the story despite its ghostly structure but also ensure that the readers are able to get his intended message. Litt’s story succeeds in doing so by employing a proper narrative design which ensured that the description of the ghostly images was not as scary as some of the ghostly stories would entail.

One of the other interesting thing about the author and how his story is fascinating is the fact that the ghost story employs the use of the rhetorical appeal of pathos. The reader’s feelings and emotions are evoked in the way the narrator is obsessed with the ghostly woman. The narrator appears to be obsessed with the ghostly woman that is why he keeps on looking through his window every evening hoping to see her. It is this obsession that makes him even go into the laundry shop he has been spotting the woman in an effort to rescue her. The narrator is depicted in this sense to have developed a liking for the ghostly woman. Unlike other ghostly stories which are often scary, Toby Litt’s story provides an interesting narrative design that incorporates emotions of love as well as lust. The narrator’s engagement with Sarah provides yet another emotional triangle, the two are involved in a relationship which started from their meeting in a flight and later fall in love and even move in to live together after Sarah finds a job around the narrator’s city. Towards the end of the story another archetypal element is depicted, the narrator returns to the home they had moved into with Sarah only to find the police around his compound and Sarah who is at that time so terrified and crying due to what she had witnessed. It was the lifeless body of the ghostly woman that the narrator kept on seeing. This is the part of the story that I find horrific but the way the author organizes and presents this scene makes it appear not as horrific as other ghostly stories would present the same situation.

The archetypal images and story patterns employed in the story encourage readers to feel part of the fears and anxieties created in the story as well as share emotions with the narrator. This is an effective way of ensuring the author’s intended message in the story is achieved in the reader since the reader is able to empathize with the narrator and in the process able to grasp what the author is trying to communicate to the reader through the narrator.


In a nutshell, Toby Litt’s story “Launderama” is fascinating and a rather interesting story unlike other ghostly stories that are often scary and full of horrific scenes. There are archetypal features that are dominant in the story such as the use of recurring ghostly images and the application of a narrative design of presentation of the story. The style, tone and subject matter employed by the author in the story is what makes the story fascinating and unique as compared to other stories. The author succeeds in communicating his intended message to its readers through a variety of strategies which include, the use of narrative design of presentation by employing the use of vivid description to describe and explore recurring images in the story. The use of the rhetorical appeal of pathos is also one of the strategy that the author successfully uses to communicate effectively to its user.

December 12, 2023



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