Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

West’s rich, reverberating prose crescendos to a tumultuous pitch in the scene on the moors—a powerful evocation of elemental passions in an elemental landscape. Her style echoes some of the qualities of Charlotte Brontë’s writing but without the Brontë Romanticism. West reveals herself to be emphatically anti-romantic; her story tears away at the myths of conventional marriage and exposes its raw interior nerve.

Her narrative technique is, in fact, modernist, and it is significant that the story was published in the first issue of Blast, which rapidly became the main organ of the vorticist movement, bringing together writers and artists who embraced the concept that its editor, Wyndham Lewis, described as “the hard, unromantic external presentation of kinetic forces.”

Most of the narrative is expressed from George’s viewpoint, and for much of the time Evadne’s character is presented in his subjective terms. The positive quality of her actual nature is defined by occasional, definitive interventions in the writer’s own voice. This duality of voice—subjective and objective—heightens the contrast between the two people. It emphasizes George’s physical and intellectual weakness and his self-delusions, and it gives authority and power to the characterization of Evadne and to her function in the story as the indissoluble element in the marriage.

The story, with its passionate overtones and intricate underlying analytical structure, was acclaimed as a brilliant achievement—particularly impressive in that so young a writer was able to handle profound and difficult emotions with so much confidence and power. The story was an early indication of the qualities of West’s more mature works, many of which pursue and develop this story’s themes with similar stylistic intensity.