Style and Technique
The realism for which Lardner was praised is evident in “Harmony.” The setting is everyday and undramatic—a train running behind schedule, a diner with good minced ham and inferior asparagus. The ball players talk, sing, and eat. The talk itself is both matter-of-fact in tone and authentic in detail, revealing Lardner’s ear for slang, baseball jargon, and the peculiarities of spoken English. Talking about Mike McCann, for example, Cole says, “You know what a pitcher Mike was. He could go in there stone cold and stick ten out o’ twelve over that old plate with somethin’ on ’em.” The passage rings true, and it is typical. The asparagus, says Cole, for example, is “tougher’n a doubleheader in St. Louis.” When McCann’s pitching fails, Cole says, “I’ll swear that what he throwed up there didn’t have no more on it than September Morning.” The beauty of Lardner’s language is that it seems transcribed rather than invented.
Lardner has been criticized for his objectivity, which it has been argued indicates a dislike of his own characters. In his satiric stories, the dislike is justifiable, and Lardner should not be faulted for letting the characters condemn themselves as they talk. Lardner, however, is also capable of tenderness, of an appreciation of the human condition in a story more poignant because it is told objectively, perhaps, as in “Harmony,” by a number of tellers. In Art Graham, a middling ball player and a fair singer, Lardner has drawn his portrait of the artist.