Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Going Home” engages the reader in the tensions that are central to the meaning of the story, “the longing to speak, the longing above all things in the world to fill the compartment with the words that had begun.” First conceived as a radio play, it has very little narrative comment. Indeed, the story resembles the plays of Harold Pinter, the bizarre tensions in the dialogue paralleling the conflicting desires of the characters, who both yearn to be intimate and are frightened of intimacy. At first, the reader has to work hard to piece together from implications in the dialogue the factual basis of the relationship, and then, perhaps, compassion for the characters grows, but the reader is finally alienated by the rawness and the hopelessness of these revelations.

Because the characters are so enclosed spatially, and because they become so intimately involved in private matters, the reader is put in the situation of a voyeur. The atmosphere of the story is one of impending violence and scandal. Simple expressions bear such an extraordinary cargo of implied violence and pain that the story borders on the horrific; it almost becomes a bad dream. At first the boy’s voice dominates, but when the dam bursts and Miss Fanshawe begins to talk, her simple narrative is shocking in its pain and explicitness.