Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Collier’s style is deceptively simple, his diction crisp and extremely precise. Beneath the seemingly simple language and sentence structure, however, lies a masterful ability to manipulate point of view, to create tone through the use of metaphor, and to exploit every ironic implication of the story.

In “Witch’s Money,” the tone of horror is maintained by distancing both Foiral and the artist from the reader, who can only watch, fascinated, their single-minded pursuit of self-destruction. The artist—the character with whom the reader can most readily identify—is kept distant from the reader; he is unnamed, and his actions are seen primarily through Foiral’s limited viewpoint. When the artist describes his surrealistic vision of the village as a place of sterility and damnation, it is the reader—not the artist or Foiral—who realizes the implications of this vision for the artist’s own life.

Ironically, the artist has only an intellectual understanding of surrealism; he does not understand that the barren and decadent landscape reflects the spirit of the place itself and that, if he enters there, he will be living out, not painting, a surrealistic nightmare. Foiral, in contrast, is brought closer to the reader, who is allowed to see the abysmal depths of ignorance and experience that allow Foiral to kill a man whom he does not perceive to be a human being like himself. Not only does Foiral lack comprehension of money and banking, but also his vision of the stranger is fragmentary and incomplete; just as the artist ironically discusses surrealism and the barren landscape without fully understanding either, so Foiral’s own aspirations have ironically empty results. When he leads the townspeople to murder, they gain only worthless scraps of paper, while their triumphant entrance into the Perpignan bank will not liberate them but imprison them.