Stylistic analysis of a short story “Laura”
The story under analysis is titled “Laura”. It is written by British author, master of the short story Hector Hugh Munro, better known by the pen name Saki. The very story belongs to fiction genre with a unique touch of mystery, psychological themes, as it concerned with two main heroines’ (Laura and Amanda) emotional states. The tone of the story is full of irony and even sarcasm, especially in the dialogues and closing lines. The mysterious ideas and incredible circumstances provide the suspense and makes the text rather gripping and thought-provoking.
The story is told from the third person, who involves the reader in Amanda’s inner world. It is shown by the indirect method of characterization, as the characters are revealed through their speech, actions and behaviors. The main heroines are Laura, a hasty, unadvised person, who possesses some eccentric ideas and her friend Amanda, more material and serious lady. The reader is merely introduced to them, so it is meant to find out about their personalities through the speech. Amanda is very concerned about Laura’s condition, because she was only given a couple of days to live. In spite of those dramatic perspectives, Laura is not afraid to die, because of her belief in reincarnation.
She admits, that she has never been a nice person, so she is ready to become an animal in the next life, and than, may be, a little Nubian boy. From this point on, the complex and dynamic personalities with some vivid qualities are shown. The biggest role in the text belongs to the dialogues. They help to create the settings of the story and reveal information about characters’ lives, beliefs and states. From the first setting it is possible to imagine a kind of a country town, as one of the minor characters (Egbert, Amanda’s husband) runs a farm. The atmosphere of the text is quite changeable, so in the end of the story the secondary setting of the Nile Valley is depicted. From the very beginning of the story the reader finds some foreshadowing.
It gives special hints to what will happen in the future. The plot includes some complications which lead right up to the climax of the text. After Laura’s death Amanda believes her friend to be reincarnated as an otter. Eventually, she learns that the animal has been killed. The fact, that a witness noticed “such a human look in its eyes” brings Amanda an attack of nervous prostration. At the very end of the story the reader finds another climax and new unsolved conflict: a Nubian boy had thrown all Egbert’s clean shirts into the bath. All this presents an external conflict; an internal conflict is revealed through struggling doubts about what happens after death. Obviously, the text has an open ending.
This short story is extremely interesting from the stylistic point of view. The writer had a very specific way of applying stylistic devices in the text. Comic nature of the situation is expressed by a lot of formal lexis and play upon polysemous words and idioms (“dying by inches”). The use of certain stylistic means is closely related to the portrayal of heroine’s personalities and conditions. The author is often ironic showing Laura’s mood and ideas. It also creates a strong humorous effect. The repetition of the word “circumstances” serves to make the reader see what type of a person Laura is, to understand her attitude towards other people. There are examples of parallel constructions in the text: “My best flower bed and my best fowls singled out for destructions”. The reader meets cases of hyperbole, like in: “he needn’t have gone on about it for the entire evening”, “maddest kind of idea”, “beast” (about the otter). The examples of litotes are met in Sir Lulworth’s speech about Laura. Instead of saying that she is out of her mind he uses the words “unaccountable” and “inconsiderate”.
Metaphors are mostly used for the portrayal of Amanda’s husband: “wearing an air of bereavement” and “hurricane of shouted curses”. The main idea of the story is to show the reader how it is necessary for a person to let the dead go, though it can be so emotionally hard and painful. It won’t do to imagine them still alive in other different forms, because all these feelings and experience may lead to nervous breakdown. The connection between the story and its title turns out to be rather striking, as the only character, Amanda by name, is followed throughout the whole text, while her friend Laura’s swift death is depicted in one short sentence. But still, her presence is strongly felt all the way.