Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

For an author whose anticommunism is proverbial, Lewis delivers “Time the Tiger” with considerable restraint. The narration is deft, hard-edged, understated, sardonic, and deployed with a confident, ironic hand. This is Lewis’s mature or late prose style: There is none of the syntactic experimentalism, the “blasting and bombardiering” of his earlier stories. The world of Mark and Charles is viewed not through the lenses of Lewis’s earlier Vorticism but through the trained and focused eyes of the aging visual artist finding his effects in ludicrous juxtaposition of concrete objects and persons actually presented by postwar British life.

Lewis makes Mark the central character, and although Mark is not the brightest man, he is not unsympathetic: Mark has cast his lot with the new order and patiently awaits a glorious future. One suspects that Charles is primarily the spokesman for Lewis’s own attitudes, but Charles is in no way idealized: He is witty but bitter, and his anarchism is not heroic but suffering. When the true antithesis to what Mark represents materializes, it does so as Ida Dyat, a walking mirage of nostalgia who then turns into a bloodthirsty female fascist. Both as literal description and as allegory for class conflict, the politics in “Time the Tiger” are never heavy-handed. Lewis has transposed his vision of ideological conflict into a fine and enduring ironic fiction.