Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In this story, as in most of his others, Davies treats thematic concerns with a delicate hand. Subtle hints of thematic concerns are embedded in descriptions of relationships, personal history, and habitual traits of the characters and then revisited as minor elements of the action of the narrative. For instance, the first portion of this story consists of a description of the social environment and professional slang of the geriatric ward in which the narrator works. None of this information is important to the narrative or mentioned again, but it foreshadows certain thematic elements (culpability and nationalism) and establishes a perspective from which to interpret them.

Structurally, the story is deconstructed into several separate parts—some in present tense, some in past—each with a heading drawn from some textual reference within the section. The parts are not in chronological order and, as the narrative shifts tense between them, give an impressionistic quality to the whole. For example, although it is made clear in the first pages that the reason for the narrator’s visit is to attend the funeral and Gareth is introduced in the next few sections, it is not until the narrator and his father are seated in the chapel, more than halfway through the story, that it becomes apparent that it is Gareth who is dead.

Davies avoids heavily metaphorical language and imagery, using straightforward and inventive adjectival description to establish place and character.