Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Lafcadio Hearn has described his style as simplicity, and he worked to touch readers with simple words. He hoped that his writing style would reveal meaning as a glass transmits light. His subjects were often the favorite folktales and legends of common people, which he told in a brief and direct way to capture their mood and meaning without adding extra elements. The story reveals this direct style in a passage describing the boy: “He was very clever, cleverer than all his brothers and sisters; but he was quite weak and small, and people said he could never grow very big.” Such description reminds readers of a childhood time when they heard folktales remembered and told by elders during quiet evenings or read and reread in favorite childhood books. A childlike mood of honesty and directness is echoed in the simple, direct writing style.

Another childlike element captured in Hearn’s writing style is fantastic, vivid imagery. Consider the scene of death the boy finds in the morning: “The first thing he saw was that all the floor of the temple was covered with blood. And then he saw, lying dead in the middle of it, an enormous, monstrous rat—a goblin-rat—bigger than a cow!” This impossibly large rat surrounded by a huge pool of blood on the temple floor invites readers to suspend their knowledge of actual rats and enter a lurid world of horrible possibilities. The scene vividly portrays the dangerous situation the boy unwittingly entered....

(The entire section is 492 words.)