Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The structure of the narrative comprises three parts: the breakdown of the king’s coach caused in part by the poor country roads, the king’s speech to the Sunday worshipers in which he tells a lie, and the king’s reception of the pastor’s narrative of the silver and its lesson. Employing a third-person point of view moving from the king to the pastor, the narrative progresses from description of the king’s accident, over which he has no control, to his enforced listening to the parson’s narrative of the accidental finding of the mountain and the subsequent ordeal of the people. This progression suggests the influence of inscrutable fate, of a providential force that guides human destiny.

The two principal protagonists dramatize the disparity and conflict between the peasantry and the monarchy. They conform to the conventional view that attributes taciturn cunning and prudential calculation to the oppressed peasantry, and paternalistic if arbitrary nobility to the king. Here, however, such feudal obligation is amiss: The peasants never expect a visit from the king. The king’s remark to the parson’s disclosure of the people’s plight captures the king’s indifference: “’Human beings here would certainly be no better than others if this world’s temptations came closer to them,’” said the parson. “’But there’s no fear of anything of the sort happening,’ said the King with a shrug.”

The narrator’s...

(The entire section is 442 words.)