Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bowen tells this story in a straightforward, simple style, proceeding chronologically except for Hilda’s occasional ruminations on the past. The most meaningful parts of the story are presented in dialogue, brief conversations between Hilda and Lucille and between Hilda and Rosa. The talk is natural, credible, and revealing of the speakers’ natures. The author does not state her theme, but merely suggests it through what the characters say to each other.

Bowen’s use of exceptionally clear and strong images helps to convey the meaning of the story also. For example, Hilda’s face is “as ingenuous as a little girl’s” and “her smiles were frequent, hopeful and quick.” Twice Bowen uses the word “irrepressible,” underscoring the quality of Hilda’s personality. After Hilda’s widowhood, Rosa “started flapping round Granville like a doomful bird.”

Life has not been all good for Hilda, but on the whole she has had a good time. She thinks, “A real good time always lasts; you have it with all your nature and your nature stays living with it.” When confronted by Rosa’s deeply unforgiving nature, Hilda merely pities her with gentle sympathy.