Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This story was written before the modern short story became a form of conscious literary artistry; here, proverbial advice to trust the tale rather than the teller is appropriate. Carleton’s purpose early in his writing career was to present the Catholic peasant population in a satiric light. However, by the time that he wrote Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1830, 1833), his sociological and evangelical purposes had been subverted by his talent for re-creating a fictional world that was deeply rooted in his inherited ways of hearing and feeling. The traditional fiction of peasant life tended to romanticize or caricature, and Carleton’s fiction has traces of these tendencies, but whatever the outer intention or theme, the heart of this writer’s style is in the re-creation of an integrated community. It is in the dialogue, above all, that his intimate knowledge of the feeling and language of the peasants is made concrete. This is a closed world, less definable in historical or psychological terms than in ways of thinking that are timelessly associated with a mythic drama of Good and Evil and with powers that are beyond human comprehension. These universal concerns become real because of Carleton’s intimately communicated feeling for the life of the peasants.