Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“After the Fair” was the first short story that Thomas published. Presented from the third-person, omniscient point of view, the narrative seems straightforward. There is, however, an interesting ambiguity in the story. The narrator never states outright that it is Annie’s baby lying in the straw in the Astrologer’s tent, and never explains why Annie is being sought by the police. The reader can, therefore, interpret the Fat Man’s remark, “See what the stars have done,” as having symbolic significance. As a “star child” the baby brings Annie and the Fat Man together in a symbolic union of life-giving energy.

The story has the form of a sketch, a small slice of life. The reader is never informed of Annie’s background and only a few details are given about the Fat Man’s past. The focus is on the present, and in concluding the story with the night ride of the merry-go-round still in progress, Thomas suggests the endless nature of this exhilarating moment. Thomas, displaying a Romantic sensibility (with his interest in children, freaks, common people, and mutability of life), freezes in a timeless action a circus fat man and a lonely girl clutching her baby. In so doing, he moves from his straightforward style to a lyrical, celebratory, poetic style rich in metaphors and rhythmic cadences.