"Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" Analysis

M. R. James

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Images of light and dark abound in the story: in the physical description of the seashore with its faint light, pale sand, and black groins; in the black pursuer of evening who becomes a white glint outside, then a “something light-coloured” in the dream, and finally a creature of “pale, fluttering draperies” and of “crumpled linen.”

The story is tightly constructed. Parkins’s dream on the first night welds the happenings of his walk home and the situation of the fugitive who trips to the mysterious pursuer in fluttering drapery yet to come. Thus, the reader understands (though Parkins does not) why the disarranged bed linen is sinister and realizes the danger that lurks in the room.

James’s characters tend to be minimal, to exist as vehicles for the plot, as stereotypes, as exemplars of attitudes. Usually the chief character is a leisured scholar or gentleman dilettante whose curiosity produces the events of the tale. Servants are stereotypes; so, often, are other characters. Colonel Wilson, the retired Indian army officer, full of prejudices and common sense, is an example.

Conversation in James’s story sounds stilted to the contemporary ear. It is the speech of a formal age and an educated class and employs periodic sentences, lengthy by modern standards, complex and slow-moving.

The author’s strength lies in narrative rather than in dialogue or character. Loose sentences and short sentences are often employed, and the story moves well. However, James’s most evident talent as a stylist is his ability to suggest. The fading light, “the wind bitter...

(The entire section is 663 words.)