Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In the approximately six hundred short stories by H. E. Bates, one of the most frequent subjects is the glories of rural England. Bates dealt with this subject not only in his stories and novels but also in several nonfiction works and a column in The Spectator entitled “Country Life.” He recognized throughout his career that what he considered an idyllic way of life was undergoing drastic changes, and his writing celebrates what had been and what remained of this peaceful splendor. Bates describes what has been lost in The Vanished World (1969), the first volume of his autobiography: “The world of television, jets and space craft dazzles our generation with new if sometimes near useless wonders, but for myself I would cheerfully exchange it for . . . the smell of wood-smoke, the scent of bluebells, cowslips, primroses and the Maiden’s Blush, the Turk’s Cap lily and the voice of nightingales.”

A nostalgic longing for the natural magnificence of the English past dominates “The House with the Grape-vine.” Both father and son would prefer their town to be “a place of green fields, with oats and barley and meadows where there were now factory yards, and little spinneys of violets and a farmhouse with apple-trees and a brook at the foot of the hill where sticklebacks swam among the cresses.” The boy wants “to make a link with the past” and wants to discover “what it was like before the brick boxes and the factories...

(The entire section is 477 words.)