Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Critics often praise Forster’s fiction for its understated tone, and “The Other Side of the Hedge” does not deviate from this standard. Rather than use extravagant descriptions, Forster adds just enough telling details to allow readers to imagine the scene. An example of his subtlety occurs when the narrator contrasts the vast sky above the paradise on the other side of the hedge with the limited sky above the road: As he emerges from the moat, he notices that the “blue sky was no longer a strip.” This sort of light touch throughout the story is effective, especially because the story’s symbolism can be heavy-handed at times.

A typical Forster story, such as “The Road from Colonus” or “The Celestial Omnibus,” both of which appear in The Celestial Omnibus, and Other Stories, is built around a central symbolic image; once a reader grasps that image, a subtle theme emerges from the story because the other images are subordinated to the primary image. Although “The Other Side of the Hedge” has the hedge as its central image, Forster burdens his story with so many other major symbols that they compete with one another for prominence, and attempts to discover an overriding theme can be frustrated.