Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

William Sansom’s sure command of visual images is vital to this story—the sense impressions both of vigorous vegetation and of the residue of war. The unique method of the story is the apparent demonstration in concrete terms of its philosophical burden. The protagonist (if not the author himself) is extending what he calls at one point “the intricate anarchy” of nature, which at the human level seems successful and orderly but which involves the continual, indifferent destruction of individual plants and animals, to include the effects of war on individuals and groups. The victims of warfare are like seeds that fall on stony ground.

The author illustrates this intricate, but random principle of nature in a vivid image of the wind-borne seed, such as that of a dandelion:Look at the parachute seed—this amazing seed actually flies off the insensate plant-mother! It sails on to the wind! The seed itself hangs beneath such an intricate parasol, it is carried from the roots of its mother to land on fertile ground far away and set up there an emissary generation! And more—when it lands, this engine is so constructed that draughts inch-close to the soil drag, drag at the little parachute, so that the seed beneath actually erodes the earth, digs for itself a little trench of shelter, buries itself! Amazing! And what if the clever little seed is borne on the wrong wind to a basin of basalt?

In the completely bombed-out town, the protagonist apparently senses, but does not verbalize even in his thoughts, the obvious...

(The entire section is 632 words.)