Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story’s plain style articulates its promotion of openness and simplicity. The narrative is so direct and accessible that its artistry risks being taken for granted. “The Man Who Invented Sin” contains, however, a number of subtle connections between style and conceptual structure, which is appropriate, given its thematic concern with the interrelationships between spontaneous behavior and rigid judgment, between naturalness and discipline, between the individual and the institution.

These concerns are quietly but effectively dramatized by subtleties in the story’s verbal texture. For example, befitting his role, Lispeen is consistently associated with blackness. Even at the end, irradiating well-being and arrogance, he casts an ominous shadow. The rest of the story’s world, however, is typically a place of light: Lighted houses betoken vitality; moonlight lends romance. In the final confrontation between Lispeen and his victims, it is the white components of the latter’s dress that are emphasized (gimps and Roman collars).

Perhaps the one word of Irish that all concerned will never forget is the curate’s nickname, Lispeen, which in Irish means “frog,” an arguably exaggerated contrast to the grandiose and somewhat implausible names of the nuns and monks. (The narrator’s anonymity connotes his eventual cultural disenfranchisement.) More incisively, as though to underline the falseness of the curate’s position, there is...

(The entire section is 432 words.)