Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“In the Cage” provides James with the requisite length (about forty-five thousand words) for him to explore as fully as he wants the whole range of emotions that his telegraphist experiences as her life becomes entangled with that of Everard. In the hands of another writer, “In the Cage” might have been a much shorter tale: relatively taut, compact, and efficient. James, however, had a passion for telling it all, and his principal narrative technique was to explore the mind of the protagonist until all—or almost all—had been said.

James’s saturation technique is seen most directly in his presentation of the telegraphist vis-à-vis Everard. That is, she is always the protagonist, but different moments with Everard call for a different persona. Like a chameleon, she manages to become a variety of women while still remaining a telegraphist. In a sense, then, she is an actress who writes her own script—and chooses her own parts.

When Everard first comes to her attention, she is the dazzled, awestruck clerk. Shortly thereafter, once she has recognized his value to her and to her imagination, she becomes the enamored young woman, one of her favored roles. From time to time, while waiting on him, she sees herself as the dreamy, soulful paramour. On occasion, when she fears that her admiration for Everard may be showing on her face, she assumes the role of the poker-faced minion who singles out no patron for special attention. When she...

(The entire section is 434 words.)