What facts does W. F. Harvey emphasize in his mystery short story "August Heat" to accentuate the plot?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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W. F. Harvey's short mystery story "August Heat" certainly does leave the reader asking many question: Did Atkinson murder our hero Withencroft? Or was it all just a weird coincidence and everything turned out fine?
The plot of the story surrounds the notion that both Withencroft and Atkinson had premonitions that day about what the immediate future may hold, and as the plot unfolds, readers speculate about the truth of their premonitions. As Harvey relays the story, he certainly lays out many clues pointing to the possibility that Withencroft was murdered by the end of the story, clues in the form of facts that drive the plot forward.

As you read the story, pay attention to what the information signifies that the narration provides. For example, what details does Harvey provide to let us know that the identity and name of the person Atkinson engraved into his headstone indeed matches the identity of our hero? Look at the facts provided concerning his full name, his age of forty years, and the date on which the narration takes place. Also, consider the details of Withencroft's sketch. What does it signify that Withencroft sketched a man that looks like Atkinson standing "in the dock immediately after a judge had pronounced sentence"? To understand the significance of those words, you may need to look up any words you are unfamiliar with, such as dock. In this context, a dock is actually not just a pier at which boats, trucks, or trains can land for loading and unloading purposes. A dock in this context is actually a place in the courtroom at which a prisoner is placed to stand trial; it's commonly a term used in England. Also, what's the significance of the facial expression Withencroft sketched? With such a crestfallen, "collapsed" expression, what sentence might the judge have just passed? Perhaps the death sentence indicating that the man was on trial for murder? Whose murder? All of these are details to pay attention to that drive the plot forward leading to the inconclusive conclusion.

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