Analyze the elements of fiction in "A High Dive" by Hartley.

L. P. Hartley's short story “A High Dive” contains all six major elements of fiction. The main characters are a circus manager, his wife, and a high-dive man. The plot centers around a discussion about how much risk should go into saving the circus. The story is written from the third person point of view and is set in a circus Big Top. The story's style is simple, yet it presents several important themes.

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Even a very short story like L. P. Hartley's “A High Dive” contains all six major elements of fiction. Let's look at each in turn.

We meet the characters first, primarily a circus manager and his wife. The circus manager is worried because his circus is losing its...

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Even a very short story like L. P. Hartley's “A High Dive” contains all six major elements of fiction. Let's look at each in turn.

We meet the characters first, primarily a circus manager and his wife. The circus manager is worried because his circus is losing its audience (and plenty of money in the process), yet he is a cautious man who doesn't like to take risks. His wife, on the other hand, is ready to go to extremes with “an act that's dangerous, really dangerous” so that the audience will not be bored. Into the midst of their disagreement walks the third major character, a man who claims that he can “dive sixty feet into a tank eight foot long by four foot wide by four foot deep." He might just be the answer to the couple's problems. Maybe.

Herein lies the story's plot. We learn about the struggling circus and the manager's hesitation to try new and dangerous stunts. Then we meet the potential solution, the high-dive man. As we follow the action, we see the man indeed diving sixty feet into a tank. The circus manager is so impressed that he offers the man a job on the spot and a far-better-than-average wage at that. But the man declines the offer for any amount of money. Why? This is the first time, he tells the astonished manager, that he has ever tried the trick, and he doesn't like it!

The story is written from a third person point of view, but the narrator is not omniscient. They don't know all the thoughts of all the characters in the story but rather only have access to the inner ideas of the circus manager.

The setting of “A High Dive” is under the Big Top at a small, struggling circus. The narrator doesn't provide many details about the setting, but most readers have likely seen enough circuses to imagine the three circus rings, the high ladders, the trapezes, the stands for the crowds, and so on. We see circus workers set up a tank for the high-dive man, and we are told that it looks like a sarcophagus, a tomb, which might make us wonder if the high-dive man will emerge from it alive.

“A High Dive” is written in a simple, rather plain style with plenty of dialogue that helps capture the characters' personalities, some description (particularly of the circus manager's worries), a “red herring” of foreshadowing in the tank that looks like a sarcophagus, and a delightful surprise ending.

Finally, the story presents themes that reflect on the changing nature of humor in modern people, the conflict between caution and risk, and the difficulty of knowing how to respond to the unexpected.

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