Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Pritchett uses three images to make his points: the ape, the statue, and the miracle. The narrator describes his doubts as being like an ape following him around; at the end of the story, he comments that the ape that merely had followed him around had been inside eating out Reverend Timberlake’s heart. The ape image, which Pritchett uses in other works, stands for the material, fleshly, and sexual nature of the human condition. People must come to terms with this condition, for they cannot deny it out of existence.

The second image is that of the statue. The slice of Timberlake’s white underbelly, glimpsed when his shirt and trousers separate, reminds the narrator of a crack appearing along the belly of the statue of some Greek god. This recalls the loss of faith of the last pagans, as they see that their gods are nothing more than flawed pieces of marble. The narrator’s glimpse reveals both Timberlake and his belief system as flawed. The statue image reappears when Timberlake and the narrator rest in a meadow filled with goldenrods. Timberlake’s wet clothing is covered with golden pollen, making him look like the gilded statue of a saint.

The third image is that of the miracle, which occurs throughout the story. What the vulgar would call miracles occur among the little congregation of Purifiers routinely every day. Timberlake performs miracles, even, it is said, raising the dead. At the end, the doctor who inspects Timberlake’s...

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