Sir Walter Scott Short Fiction Analysis
Sir Walter Scott is known primarily as a novelist and secondarily as a poet. He wrote only six short stories. Nevertheless, he remains an important figure in that genre, too. In The Short Story in English (1981), the distinguished critic Walter Allen begins his survey of the genre with Scott’s story “The Two Drovers,” which he calls “the first modern short story in English.” In addition, three of his stories (as mentioned above) are generally acknowledged to be among the masterpieces of the form.
Scott uses the same methods and explores the same subjects in his stories as in his novels. He places his characters in concrete historical situations; they are social beings rooted in a particular time and place. Conflicts between individuals symbolize larger issues—the conflict between past and present, the conflict between national traditions and temperaments, the tragedy of cultural incomprehension. Scott presents these themes more starkly, however, in his stories. The demanding form of the short story forced him into a directness and concision often lacking in his novels. Thus, to many readers, Scott’s short stories may be the most satisfactory works he ever wrote.
“Wandering Willie’s Tale”
Scott’s first short story, “Wandering Willie’s Tale,” appeared in the novel Redgauntlet. Although it attains its full significance only in the context of that larger work, this universally...
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