Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

De la Mare’s employment of loose ends extends to the witty diction of “A Recluse,” where wordplay sets up patterns of verbal echo in the text. The word “imposing” in the story’s second paragraph is a good limited example. Here Mr. Dash is quibbling with the auctioneers’ use of the term, suggesting that it is an indiscretion. In its usual sense, though, the word cannot be called indiscreet: Montresor is plainly an impressive sight. Mr. Dash, however, suggests the word’s less pleasant senses with his equivocation, and his entire story ostensibly springs from a desire to explain that the word is indiscreet because Montresor is not what it seems, is in fact a mansion “practising imposture” (as the Oxford English Dictionary defines a no longer current meaning of “imposing”).

Again, in his final comments on Mrs. Altogood as “a Thomasina Tiddler”—a trifler, that is, not up to the seriousness of Mr. Bloom’s occult researches—Mr. Dash employs his terms equivocally. He also considers Mrs. Altogood to be dabbling in “those obscure waters” and leaning “over a gallipot of ’tiddlers’”—a small container, that is, of small fish. Mr. Dash’s pun is an obvious one, but it establishes an inescapable contrast with Mr. Bloom’s “vasty deeps,” suggesting that Mr. Bloom has so far accustomed himself to the “Serpentine” (in contrast to Mrs. Altogood’s “gallipot”) that he has become master of the big...

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