The Trout

by John Francis Whelan

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Style and Technique

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The minimal plot of this brief story offers little opportunity for the development of conflict that might build suspense. Its point of view is that of an omniscient narrator, able to interpret the thoughts and feelings of all the characters, although, in this case, the narrator provides entrée only into Julia’s mind. The story is not notable for use of irony, fantasy, emotional impact, or humor.

Although there are an indeterminate number of adults in the story, only Martin—apparently a caretaker or groundskeeper—is mentioned by name. The only character drawn in any depth is Julia, whom the reader sees as she begins her journey from childhood to adulthood, both physically and emotionally. Even she is characterized more through hints than through explicit detail—other than references to her having a long, lovely neck and long legs. Descriptions of her screaming with pleasure at the cold, dank challenge of the Dark Walk, and, at the end of the story, flying like a bird home to bed, suggest a lithe, young girl. On the other hand, she is clearly beginning her journey through adolescence to adulthood, having consciously “decided to be incredulous,” because “at that age little girls are beginning to suspect most stories.” She is also beginning in the smallest ways to break away from her parents: “She, in her bed, had resolutely presented her back to them and read her book. But she had kept one ear cocked.”

The house and the adults are described not at all. On the other hand, the trout and the natural characteristics of the outdoors are rendered, although briefly, in some detail. Opening with his depiction of the Dark Walk as Julia experiences it, and ending with her frantic late-night journey through the walk, to the river, and back home to bed, O’Faoláin’s descriptive powers give the reader a small but vivid glimpse of the Irish countryside.

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