In his short story “On the Western Circuit,” author Thomas Hardy primarily employs a third-person omniscient narrator. He also makes extensive use of dialogue. Hardy does not specifically employ the epistolary technique, in which information is provided in the form of letters that the characters exchange. Instead, without actually providing their content, he makes the letters play a central role in developing the characters’ relationships and the plot.
The unnamed narrator, who is apparently detached from the story’s action, provides a linear, chronological narrative of the events; gives insights into the characters; and offers value judgments about the characters’ actions and motivations. Using this type of narration enables the author to delve into all the characters’ hearts and minds rather than be limited to presenting the perspective of any individual character.
Hardy makes extensive use of dialogue, which helps the reader understand the relationships between the characters. The reader gains perspectives on the ways that the individual characters speak and act in company with others. For example, Anna seems to be a different person when interacting with Raye or with Edith.
The use of letters is key to the entire story, but the author cleverly avoids reproducing their content. Instead, he uses them to reveal the characters’ motivations and reactions. For Anna, the fact of her illiteracy is connected to her overall social situation; this includes her dependence on Edith to help her communicate and her shame at this perceived inadequacy. Edith uses them to express her otherwise repressed romantic notions, while Raye allows himself to be wooed by a person he imagines rather that one he actually knows.