Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

O’Flaherty’s style in this story, like the majority of his fiction, is simple and straightforward. To create a comic sort of narrative, he relies on both exaggeration and repetition. When the villagers in the post office find out that Martin must send a telegram, they do not simply smile knowingly at one another, but they “burst out into full-bellied and joyous laughter. The rollicking sound could be heard away out on the road. People stamped on the floor and thumped one another in the sides with merriment.” Again and again this exaggeration occurs in the story.

There is also heavy use of repetition. Four times in the space of the story, Martin screams at the local villagers to keep quiet. Three times he gets a bad connection on the phone, and three times he looks at the strangers with hatred for having asked him to send the telegram.

At times, these techniques are a bit heavy-handed and almost seem to beg for a laugh. At others, though, the reader cannot help but smile. There is one digression in which an old woman looks at the toes of the two foreign women and, seeing that they are painted red, asks the young man: “What class of disease is that?” He responds that they caught a disease in the Amazon that is causing their toes to rot slowly, inch by inch. The old woman screams and flees the post office, leaving her pension money behind.

In the end, however, the humor is of secondary importance, for O’Flaherty has created a story and characters that personify the name of the village—confusion. This he does admirably.