Frank Dalby Davison R. G. Howarth - Essay

R. G. Howarth

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[There is a lapse in Man Shy] during the critical incident of the fight between the two bulls for possession of the red heifer. The duel is at its height and one expects a climax such as Hemingway so skilfully and excitingly presents in his studies of bull-fights, when "There was an epic quality in that battle. It had to be! It was an inevitable occurrence in the herd life", Davison interposes and drops one flat. "Epic!" The grand epithet minified by the strain to impress, through decade after decade, of beggared journalists and film-publicity men! It is no use Mr. Davison's saying that the combat was epic: he has to present it as such, to give us the so-called "epic" in action. Instead of doing that, he tries to induce an effect by the use of a cheapened word, which is followed by clichés. Further,… the narrator intrudes here in the role of commentator, and the naturalness and self-sufficiency of the tale are thereby impaired.

One suspects from this anti-climax the presence of a radical hesitancy in Davison: that he feels unequal to the great moment, unable to face it, and therefore takes refuge in banality. The same fault may be noticed in his shorter story, "The Road to Yesterday"…. It is a piece of work remarkable for the close knowledge of farming conditions and practice that it shows, and one follows all the details with the intense interest that could not be given to a mere agricultural manual....

(The entire section is 568 words.)