Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In this exceptionally short work, Collier uses a strictly objective technique. He briefly describes the two characters and the setting in the opening paragraphs, then lets his characters tell the story almost entirely through their dialogue. This technique is perfect for the author’s purposes, because he wants his message to dawn on the reader without his having to spell it out. It is interesting to observe how Collier displays his technical virtuosity by suggesting the debilitating effects of long years of married life while respecting the classic Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action.

The entire story unfolds in only a few minutes and is confined to a simple setting. It contains only two characters, and these two are sharply contrasted so that it is easy to visualize both and to imagine how their voices sound. One is young, the other old. One is idealistic, the other realistic. The young man is governed by his passions; the old man has been disillusioned by long years of living and is governed by the cold light of reason. The young man is interested in love; the old man is only interested in money. The young man has his whole life ahead of him but acts as if he is pressed for time; the old man obviously is at the end of his life but acts as if he has all the time in the world.

Collier often wrote unrealistic stories with realistic settings. He was noted for putting his genii, jinns, sibyls, demons, and ghosts in contemporary...

(The entire section is 471 words.)