Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Though Sillitoe was born a decade after the end of the Great War, his descriptions of the effects of trench warfare on the lives of the participants make one recall the poems of Siegfreid Sassoon:Shells of shrapnel balls exploded above their heads. They stopped silently, or rolled against the soil as if thrown by an invisible hand. Or they were hidden in a wreath of smoke and never seen again. The wire was like a wall. The guns had cut only one gap so they were like a football crowd trying to get off the field through a narrow gate on which machine guns were trained.

Sillitoe relies on such compelling passages to keep the reader moving through his story.

He also sustains interest through the skillful interaction of nature with the mind of his character. Consider the way in which he sets up the murder itself, a murder that the reader has already been informed has taken place. Nevill’s bloody thoughts blend with the locale in which they will be translated into action. All living things and natural phenomena seem to be one with the character’s primitive determination to seek justice: “A breeze which carried the smell of grass made him hungry.” “The last of the sun flushed white and pink against his eyes.” “A platoon of starlings scoured back and forth on a patch of grass to leave no worm’s hiding place unturned.” “The odour of fungus and running water on clean pebbles was sharpened by the cool of the evening.”


(The entire section is 427 words.)