Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

There is not much narrative action in this story. The characters of Mr. and Mrs. Owen and Mr. Davies are important primarily for their symbolic significance. Consequently, Thomas devotes a large part of his tale to a description of the symbolic landscape. During the meal at the Owen house, for example, the focus shifts from the three people gathered around the table to a detailed commentary on the scene outside the window. The “brown body” of the earth, the “green skin” of the grass, and the “breasts” of the Jarvis hills are more than simple personifications of the area around the Owen home. The language suggests the primitive sexuality and vitality of nature, powerful contrasts to the desiccated and desolated old clergyman.

In order to develop the poetic descriptions, rich in metaphors, Thomas had to tell his story from the third-person omniscient point of view. By the end of the tale, it becomes clear that the fabric of Mr. Davies’ Christianity has been torn away, leaving him frightened and vulnerable in the face of the powers of raw nature. Thomas’s description of him as “an old god beset by his enemies” suggests that a faltering Christianity cannot win out against the omnipotence of the pantheistic world of the Owens, a couple in complete harmony with the pulse of nature and the forces of darkness and the occult.

The allegorical nature of Thomas’s story (the Owens representing pagan religion and Mr. Davies representing Christianity) is further developed in the sequel. The holy six of Wales bear allegorical names in the form of anagrams. Mr. Vyne and Mr. Stul, for example, represent Envy and Lust respectively.