Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In the foreword to the American edition of The Collected Tales of A. E. Coppard (1948), A. E. Coppard states that one of the two principles of storytelling is “that unity, verisimilitude, and completeness of contour are best obtained by plotting your story through the mind or consciousness of only one of your characters.” Clearly, for the particular effect of this story, it is essential that the point of view be handled in such a way that the events are seen through the mind of Harvey. For one thing, plotting the story through Harvey’s mind tends to persuade the reader to sympathize with him because his are the only thoughts revealed to the reader. It is equally important that neither Harvey nor the reader know what Mrs. Sadgrove and Mary are thinking. Because Coppard carefully establishes the fact that Mrs. Sadgrove has a reputation for driving a hard bargain and because Mary’s reserve seems almost pathological, the reader is likely to agree with Harvey that there is a catch somewhere in Mrs. Sadgrove’s offer. The fact that Mrs. Witlow favors the marriage to Mary only contributes to the reader’s suspicions because Mrs. Witlow herself seems excessively hard and materialistic. Mary’s revelation that she was fond of Harvey—then—is almost as much of a surprise to the reader as to Harvey, but like all good “surprise” endings, it has been carefully prepared for.