Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A gifted writer who used many different styles and techniques, Dunsany had a writing career that spanned more than half of the revolutionary twentieth century, during which time literary fashions underwent many changes. His early short stories, of which “The Ghosts” is a good example, are written in an ornate, poetic style reminiscent of the florid writing and romantic literary conventions of Edgar Allan Poe, with considerable emphasis on description of landscapes, costumes, and interior furnishings. Readers had more patience with lengthy passages of such description before modern photography made pictures commonplace. Dunsany’s later stories, such as “The Two Bottles of Relish” (1932), published after Europe had been through the devastating World War I and was entering the Great Depression, are far more realistic, more democratic, less descriptive, and even “minimalistic” by comparison.

Dunsany’s collected works show great technical virtuosity. His short story “The Two Bottles of Relish,” for example, uses the persona of a faux naïf Cockney narrator who is obviously poorly educated and has little experience in putting his thoughts into words. “The Ghosts” presents a striking contrast. The narrator is obviously intelligent, sensitive, and well educated. He has a good knowledge of history and an excellent vocabulary. The reader is reminded of the highly articulate and sometimes poetic fictitious narrators of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s horror stories, such as...

(The entire section is 616 words.)