Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The technique used in “The Two Bottles of Relish” resembles that of Arthur Conan Doyle in his famous Sherlock Holmes stories. Both Doyle and Dunsany were indebted to the American genius Edgar Allan Poe, who is credited with being the father of the detective story with two 1840’s “tales of ratiocination”: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter.” J. Brander Matthews, a distinguished literary critic, wrote that the history of the detective story began with the publication of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Branders called the story “a masterpiece of its kind, which even its author was unable to surpass; and Poe, unlike most other originators, rang the bell the very first time.”

Poe invented many of the conventions of the detective story that are still in use today. He had the wisdom to tell his tales of ratiocination from the point of view of a minor character, so that it was unnecessary for him to disclose any of his hero C. Auguste Dupin’s thought processes until the surprising climax of the story. Just as Dupin had his anonymous biographer and Holmes had his friend Dr. Watson, so Linley is provided with the good-natured, loyal, but slow-witted Smethers to chronicle his genius. The narrative style of Dunsany’s story is conversational, deliberately amateurish, and full of slang, because Smethers has less education than Poe’s or Doyle’s narrators and belongs to a lower social class.

All three heroes are “amateur detectives.” Poe established the useful convention that the amateur...

(The entire section is 639 words.)