Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
This brief masterpiece is an excellent representation of the principal stylistic and technical elements of Saki’s achievement. Above all, the economy of the story’s construction—the swift drafting of the background, with its elements of local color and drama; the limited cast of characters; the neat, subtle introduction and arrangement of the plot details necessary to the surprise conclusion—is typically masterful, and indeed necessary to the success of the story because readers must not have time to doubt the realism of the situation, in either its physical or psychological aspects.
The quiet, calm voice of the omniscient narrator seems initially to comfort the reader with a sense of control over the events that it narrates, yet as the disquieting details accumulate—the restlessness of the forest creatures, the “accident” of the tree’s falling at just the right moment, the “success” of the men’s calls for help, the alarming hysteria of Ulrich’s laughter—the lack of modulation in the tones of the narrator becomes one of the principal devices by which the suspense is developed and sustained. The end of the story reveals Saki’s powerful control in the fact that the surprise is held back until the very last word—a word that, in retrospect, explains and justifies all the details and arrangements made in the careful crafting of the story as a whole.