Style and Technique
Defoe is the father of realistic fiction in English. In Robinson Crusoe (1719), A Journal of the Plague Year (1722), and Moll Flanders (1722), Defoe writes fictional pieces that are grounded in history and contemporary reality. Defoe’s meticulous attention to detail includes dates, dialogue, place-names, and a journalistic format. In “A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal,” Defoe’s narrator offers Mrs. Bargrave’s neighbor’s report as an authentic document. The tone of each of the narrators is insistent, as if the truth about an occurrence could be established by the force behind the spoken word. Setting also is intended to reinforce belief. A ghost story might be doubted, but one cannot be as doubtful if the ghost appears in a woman’s private home, in her private seating area, with her familiar elbow chair serving as the seat for the ghost. The home is in Canterbury, a place all readers can identify. The home is part of a neighborhood whose closeness to the marketplace makes the home part of everyday, ordinary life.
In comparison with other short stories, “A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal” does not emerge as a typical story. The events of the story do not constitute a plot. The narrator of the preface is not clearly identified, and then suddenly events are related by Mrs. Bargrave’s neighbor. No return to the original point of view occurs. The work is fiction but has the appearance of a journalistic report.