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The Classic Short Story, 1870-1925

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Florence Goyet

Part III: Reader, Character and Author

10. The Narrator, the Reflector and the Reader

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1The classic short story makes use of the all participants in the narrative process — author, narrator and reader — to create the characteristic distance between reader and characters. The reader shares with the author the exhilaration of enjoying the spectacle of this distance. In this chapter, the short story will once again show its versatility: it can distance the narrator from the reader, or equally it can create a real proximity to him, only to increase the distance from the other characters. We will first spend some time on the concept of the “reflector”, as described by Henry James, to show its necessity, but also its dangers: structural distinctions are not enough, we have to take into account the whole context, the whole strategy of the text. The reflector does not tell the story — that is the role of the narrator. He is one of the characters, but one privileged by the writer: he is the one who sees, and through whose eyes we see. In great novels, the reflector can be a powerful device to help the reader to enter the fictional world and to get nearer to the characters’ mental universe. But in classic short stories — even in James’s — it is one more variation on the common theme of distancing.

  • 1 Henry James, The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces (New York: Scribner, 1962), p. 70.
  • 2 The Preface to Princess Cassamassima (ibid, pp. 59-78) in particular, is nearly all dedicated to r (...)

2The works of James are, of course, good examples of the use of a reflector. Hardly any of his stories is an Ich-Erzahlung: we usually have a third-person narrator, but this narrator is not omniscient, and James limits himself to what this character knows, hears, sees and, most importantly, feels. It is as if the writer were placing a filter between us and the spectacle. When this filter is, to use James’s words, “the most polished of possible mirrors of the subject”, third person narration does not prevent us from participating in the mental universe of the characters.1 In his critical writings, James developed at length the idea that through a discriminating, intelligent, and sensitive reflector, we would appreciate to the full all the subtleties and beauties of a novel’s universe.2

  • 3 Gérard Genette, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, trans. by Jane E. Lewin (Ithaca, NY: Corn (...)

3Although James’s distinction between narrator and reflector is necessary, it is not without danger, especially when — as in the works of the French New Critics — it is viewed as having automatic effects. Gérard Genette defined a complete “grille” by combining the possibilities of “mode” (reflector) and “voice” (narrator).3 When the narrator is one of the characters, narration is said to be “intradiegetic”; when he is exterior to it, “extradiegetic”; when the reflector is one of the characters we have “internal focalization”; “external” when he is not. This combination of narration and focalization provides neat divisions, with each “compartment” representing one particular technical example. The danger, of course, is to assume as Genette and the narratologists did after him, that each of these “compartments” implies a particular effect. That is, that by using both external focalization and heterodiegetic narration, one would achieve an “external” viewpoint of the narration; and that by reverting to internal focalization and intradiegetic narration, one would automatically get an “internal” perspective on the narrative. When we begin to examine specific stories, however, we see to the contrary that each of these compartments is susceptible to a wide variety of uses.

4Once our interest lies in the problems of the relationship between reader, author and characters — and we are primarily concerned with how the one regards the other — such mechanical, formal distinctions become secondary. We do need to be able to distinguish between the reflector and the narrator, precisely because the short story will use either one to continue to bring the reader and author together in admiration of the distant spectacle. Without it, the profound architecture of some of the most subtle and best stories cannot be understood. But we cannot take for granted its particular effect in the texts.

  • 4 Wayne C. Booth, A Rhetoric of Irony (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 57-67.
  • 5 Helmut Bonheim perceives that there can be not only unreliable narrators but also unreliable speak (...)

5Wayne C. Booth has provided a useful tool for analysis in his distinction between “reliable” and “unreliable” narrators.4 Booth’s theory helps us to see that, when it comes to the classic short story, unreliable narrators/reflectors represent characters; reliable narrators/reflectors never represent characters — but rather represent the reader.5 The reliable narrator is the person whose word we do not doubt a priori; we do not subject his statements, arguments or values to a systematic proof. This does not signify that he is omniscient; simply, that he is in a certain way “transparent”. We do not exert before him our capacity for detecting irony. On the other hand, we distance ourselves from the unreliable narrator’s discourse. At the very least, we take what he says with a grain of salt; and at the extreme, we systematically interpret the opposite of what he says. The factors that make him unreliable are the same as those that distance the other characters. The superiority of this distinction over that between “voice” and “mode” is that we are no longer describing external traits (whether the narrator is one of the characters or not); we are invited to balance the relations between the different actors in the narrative process by taking into account, equally, the entire context.

  • 6 Etō Jun, “Nichiōbunka no taishōsei to hitaishōsei”, Bungakkai, 43:1 (1989), 240-52.

6Another critic will bear witness to the necessity and the danger of these external, formal distinctions. Japanese criticism uses the concept of “first person disguised as third person” (sanninshō o kasō ichininshō), which corresponds to one of the essential “compartments” of Genette’s grille: “heterodiegetic narration/internal focalization”. Etō Jun uses this concept to formalise the difference between western and Japanese narration.6 For him, western narration is characterised by the use of the third person and of the past tense, whereas Japanese narration is characterised by the use of the “timeless” and of the first person, either “disguised” or not.

  • 7 However, Etō still considers this process to be mechanical, thinking that recourse to one voice an (...)

7Etō’s argument ignores the fact that western narratives also make use of all the resources of voice and mode. But interestingly enough, he immediately connects this fact of syntax with other rhetorical techniques. His aim is to show that Japanese is the language of proximity to a character, and he bases his proof on the distortions that an English translation inflicted on a novel by Tanizaki Junichirō. Etō’s contextual analysis is subtle enough to enable him to show that this technique is only one element of a complete tableau: having recourse to the timeless and to an internal focalization is accompanied, for example, by the use of a specifically affective vocabulary (jōigo), which brings the reader into the character’s subjectivity.7

Unreliable narrators and reflectors

  • 8 R. Bruce Bickley clearly shows that Melville shares our point of view and not his narrator’s in hi (...)
  • 9 John M. Ellis, for example, points out that in all the short stories he has analysed, the text onl (...)

8Unreliable narrators and reflectors in short stories are members of the world being described. They are characters among other characters, distanced from the reader by the same methods we have seen in previous chapters. A classic example is Herman Melville’s Bartleby, The Scrivener where the interest rests on the growing suspicion about the reliability of the narrator, the Wall Street lawyer, and on our awareness of a double spectacle: the scene as narrated and the distortion which we suspect has been imposed on the scene.8 This doubt about what is said or perceived by a narrator or reflector who is one of the characters is a constant feature of the classic short story.9

  • 10 Arthur Schnitzler, Plays and Stories, ed. by Egon Schwarz (New York: Continuum, 1982), pp. 249-79 (...)

9As we are very near here to what we have seen at length in the previous chapter, I shall give only one example to make clear the neutrality of devices: Arthur Schnitzler’s Lieutenant Gustl.10 This short story, based entirely on an interior monologue, was written in 1900, a decade or so after Edouard Dujardin’s pioneering use of the device in Les Lauriers sont coupés, and long before James Joyce’s Ulysses. In this instance we are inside the mind of the character: the narrator’s voice is the only one we hear. We should, therefore, be as close as possible to the character, to his “voice”, to his inner truth. In reality, we are no closer than when dialect is used. Gustl is as effectively discredited “from within” as he might be in an external narrative.

  • 11 For more on music as a passion shared by all classes of society in Vienna, see Carl E. Schorske, F (...)

10This distancing begins from the outset with the young officer’s reflections on music. He is bored at a concert; he mistakes a mass for an oratorio, and admits to failing to recognise any difference between the choir and cabaret singers. Note that the story was published in the Neue Freie Press, one of the favourite newspapers of the Viennese upper middle class, for whom music — originally a means of obtaining social status in the eyes of the aristocracy — had become a widespread passion.11 By presenting the hero, before any other description, as fundamentally incapable of appreciating music, Schnitzler has already effectively “labelled” him as separate from the readers more clearly than any explicit judgement could have done.

  • 12 Schwarz, p. 261.

11But Schnitzler does not stop there. Not only does Gustl have bad taste, not only is he a conceited junior officer who imagines that all women are attracted to him, but he is in total contradiction to his own values. His bragging about duels at the beginning of the story is totally out of keeping with his confusion later that night, and above all his great speeches on honour are ultimately contradicted by his actions. Schnitzler’s ridiculing of the lieutenant is quasi-explicit in the precise contradiction in terms. Right after he is insulted by a baker, Gustl states the need to end his life: “And even if he [the baker] had a stroke tonight, I’d know it […] I’ve got to do it — There’s nothing to it.— ”.12 When he learns that the baker in fact died of a stroke, this completely restores his peace of mind, and he can pretend that his honour has not been damaged.

  • 13 Ibid, p. 279. I have modified the translation here (“I’ll knock you to smithereens!”) to be closer (...)
  • 14 Details of the negative reception of Lieutenant Gustl by the army can be found in Evelyne Polt-Hei (...)
  • 15 Very much akin to this, to my mind, is Simone de Beauvoir’s use of the diary as a framing device i (...)

12The ending underlines the contradiction even further: one would have thought that the night’s anguish would have transformed the lieutenant, and prompted him to question his somewhat automatic adherence to the code of military behaviour. Yet Gustl experiences no revelation. The story ends with what is going through his mind at the thought of fighting a duel with another man: “Just wait, my boy, I’m in wonderful form… I’ll crush you into mincemeat! ”.13 The culinary allusion here reminds us of the baker from earlier in the story, creating the sense of an endless cycle. The “stroke of joy” that overwhelms him is the joy of a brutal mercenary. As was often the case, the objects of this ridicule were quite aware of the distancing at work — the army was outraged by the derision implied in the story and went so far as to demote Schnitzler for writing it.14 In Lieutenant Gustl, we remain completely exterior to the character, even though, technically speaking, we have remained within him: the technical point of view has no automatic bearing on the perspective.15

  • 16 The same device is found in Maupassant, whose fantastic stories are perhaps the stronger of his wo (...)

13Before proceeding to the more complex case of the reliable narrator/reflector, we must note once again that the fantastic short story uses the techniques of the classic short story in a much more complex fashion. In supernatural tales, unreliable narrators/reflectors are an exception; but this exception allows for powerful effects. For example, by choosing for once not to have a reliable reflector, James strengthens the ambiguity in The Turn of the Screw. There is still lively controversy about whether the young English teacher in the story actually sees the two ghosts, and it has often been stressed that the text’s interest lies in this very ambiguity. The governess’s point of view is not immediately doubted, and it is never openly contradicted by the author; but a whole series of indices prevent her from reaching the status of reliable reflector. As a result, suspense is reinforced, and the entry into a fantastic world becomes more troubling than usual: the reader is constantly invited to question the reality of what is being conveyed. Thus James creates a stereoscope: the scene and the way it is perceived.16

Reliable narrators and reflectors

14Reliable narrators/reflectors are never representatives of the world portrayed; and they are the only “characters” not to be distanced. Yet for all that, they are not necessarily representatives of the reader, either; sometimes the narrator is both reliable and foreign. In Voltaire’s Micromegas, for example, the narrator Micromegas, a “little giant” from the far-away planet Sirius, comes to Earth on a mission of discovery. His impressions of Earth of course bear the stamp of strangeness, as did those of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver: customs of the Earth creatures — or the Houyhnnhnms — are quite different from those at home in Sirius. By describing eighteenth-century France and England through “foreign” eyes, familiar customs suddenly look very strange, and their faults become more apparent. This device was quite popular in the eighteenth century, but was used much less frequently at the end of the nineteenth. However there are still some examples of its use in classic short stories, including Leo Tolstoy’s Kholstomer. The author provides a satire of Russian society through the eyes of a horse — a narrator as far removed from our own ideas as Gulliver or Micromegas. From the moment we are presented with such a reflector, all that is obvious collapses: the very idea of owning an animal, for instance, becomes monstrous; and with it the social structure of Alexander II’s Russia.

  • 17 On this “American girl”, see Virginia C. Fowler, Henry James’s American Girl: The Embroidery on th (...)

15This device is not only powerful as a tool for satire. James’s most famous short story, Daisy Miller, owes much of its strength to his choice of a reflector from the “Sirius point of view”. Frederick Winterbourne is a member of a very good American family but he has been brought up in Switzerland. His outlook is stamped with a freshness of perception: he does not know any other young American girls, so he does not compare Daisy to them and come to the hasty conclusion that her free and simple manners are bad. In this way, James can present Daisy as foreign and incomprehensible, but without “cataloguing” her. James’s readers followed Winterbourne’s opinion because he shared their fundamental values. Morality is essential for him: he is not a Frenchman for whom a young woman’s flirtatious behaviour would be an attraction. As a result of Winterbourne’s fresh perception, readers understood that Daisy could not be described according to their pre-conceived categories.17

  • 18 He is also, except in the cases mentioned above, the narrator in fantastic stories. In order for u (...)

16This “Sirius point of view” exploits the potentialities of the short story genre to the fullest; it provides enormous vivacity of perception and a radical exteriority in relation to the subject. For once the readers’ prejudices are called into question. But this device does not signify immediacy any more than in Voltaire, Swift or Tolstoy: Micromegas is interested in men and their problems, but never gives up his standpoint as an outsider. If the readers followed Winterbourne in his judgement — or rather his absence of judgement — of Daisy, it is precisely because he is not part of her universe. And even at the end of the story, the readers do not share in the values of the young woman — they have simply ceased to see her in the same light as they did at the beginning. The short story is able to renew our perception of an object, but, for all that, it does not take us into its logic. It is not the Houyhnnhnms’ values that the reader is invited to share, but those of Gulliver. Micromegas and Gulliver’s Travels show us very clearly the fundamental law: when there is immediacy in a short story, it is always with an intermediary. The reliable narrator/reflector is the mediator between the reader and a bizarre world. He is the Parisian of the Normandy stories who introduces us to the special world of the peasants; he is the Japanese student in Mori Ōgai’s Hanako who interprets the world of Auguste Rodin.18

17Side by side with these Sirians who enable us to see the object in a different light and judge our world a novo, we find any number of reliable narrators/reflectors who are the representatives of the reader. The typical example here would be Franz Kafka’s Strafkolonie (In the Penal Colony). The narrator-reflector is a European who has come to visit a remote colony where torture is a fundamental means of government. He represents a world where torture could never be legitimated or praised (even if it could be practiced); his presence, therefore, is a very economical way of showing the radical foreignness of the values of the officer commanding the colony. By the insistent mention of the “normal” values and reasoning of the narrator’s world, Kafka refuses to justify the brutal laws that govern this world. This does not eliminate a certain fascination, but it is produced through horror, terror, and distance.

  • 19 Anton Chekhov, The Portable Chekhov, ed. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), pp. (...)
  • 20 Nikolay’s wife, too, is used as a reflector at the beginning of the story. Very quickly her style, (...)

18Similarly, the central device of Chekhov’s Muzhiki (Peasants), the story we saw in the previous chapter, may well be the author’s choice of reflector.19 Nikolay was born a peasant, but he left his village as an infant and spent all his life in Moscow, where his work in the best hotel in town put him in constant contact with all that is most refined. Returning to his village, he has the reactions of a city-dweller: he looks at the hut from an external perspective, and through his mediation Chekhov constructs a truly terrifying vision of rural poverty. The denunciation of the misery and dirt of the peasants’ life by one of their own is much more powerful than if it had come from a country gentleman. What is even more remarkable is that Chekhov abandons Nikolay as reflector part way through the story. At this point, Nikolay joins the other characters and will, like them, be distanced. But the effect has already been accomplished: that first impression of horror in the face of such tremendous misery will never be questioned. Right up until the end of the story, Nikolay’s impressions of the village will be considered valid, and will serve to distance the scene, even though, as a character, his behaviour and his values will be challenged.20

19The definition of the narrator as the “representative of the reader” allows for a variety of criteria. When James writes about Europe, he is an American talking to Americans — or to us for whom Europe at the beginning of the century is just as distant. When Verga describes the misery of the peasants in the Rivista Italiana di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, he is an intellectual speaking to intellectuals who also share his interest in social problems. But that the narrator/reflector is the representative of the reader in no way implies that he belongs to this world by birth: it will be necessary and sufficient for him to share his values, his ways of judging and of expressing himself.

  • 21 Guy de Maupassant, The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant, trans. by Artine Artinian (Gar (...)

20In Maupassant’s Mon oncle Jules (My Uncle Jules), the narrator is walking with his friend, Davranche, when he sees him give twenty francs — a lot of money — to a beggar.21 Noting his surprise, Davranche explains how, as a young man, he found his “Uncle From America” humbly at work on one of the imitation steamboats that crossed from Jersey to the mainland. Uncle Jules — the great hope of the family, expected to become a millionaire — had in fact failed to make his fortune in America and had not dared to return to Le Havre where his relatives lived. In order to survive, he became an oyster-shucker on one of these cheap steamers. Now a rich man himself, Davranche gives a lot of money to someone who reminds him of his uncle. What is interesting is that Davranche takes the opportunity provided by this account to paint a lurid picture of the material hardships of his own family, hardships that are basically seen as pitiful and ridiculous:

  • 22 Ibid, pp. 1309-10 (pp. 934-35).

I remember the pompous air of my poor parents in these Sunday walks, their stern expression, their stiff walk. […] Jersey is the ideal trip for poor people. It is not far; one crosses a strip of sea in a steamer and lands on foreign soil, as this little island belongs to England. Thus, a Frenchman, with a two-hours’ sail, can observe a neighboring people at home and study the customs […] [My father] spread around him that odor of benzine which always made me recognize Sunday. […] My father was probably pleased with this delicate manner of eating oysters on a moving ship. He considered it good form, refined […]22

  • 23 To use Andrew Levy’s words: this is a case, not of having “no link with those socially disenfranch (...)

21From this description it is clear that a first person account is no guarantee of immediacy, as so often has been said, even when there is a reliable narrator/ reflector. It is not because the narrator says “I” that there is no distance between us and that which he describes, because often he feels distant from his own surroundings. This is an exemplary case, since the narrator introduces his own family: the fact that it is his father who is involved does not lessen the ridicule in the least. The reason for this is that the narrator has been distinguished from the other characters from the beginning of the text. The story framing the story showed him walking with the narrator who can be assumed, at this time, to be a Maupassant, whose image as a worldly storyteller and elegant gentleman is firmly fixed in the mind of the readers. This son of a provincial clerical worker has become a true Parisian, with intimate connections in society: he has very little in common with the workers of Le Havre. Like Nikolay in Peasants, he has changed his universe: his tale can therefore distance this world without embarrassment.23 This gesture seals his membership in Maupassant’s world, in a community whose judgements the reader is supposed to share, and which the entire text reinforces.

  • 24 Chinua Achebe, Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays (New York: Doubleday 1989), pp. 1-20; and Vi (...)

22There are from then on two possible outcomes. The reader can reject the text as presented. This is what happened with Chekhov’s Peasants in the face of “populist” readers, or with Lieutenant Gustl when it was read by Schnitzler’s fellow military officers. The readers saw the fierce distancing operating against the peasants and officers, and they rejected it in the name of their own values. We see this amongst more recent critics in the light of postcolonial and feminist theory; for example, in the reaction of Chinua Achebe to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or Virginia Llewellyn Smith to the distancing of female characters in Chekhov.24 Too strong an ideological distance forbids acceptance of a short story. The text will be considered false, partisan, ill-informed: it is scarcely possible to read a story whose value system is too foreign, even though a strongly ideological novel like Tolstoy’s Voskresenie (Resurrection) can be read without accepting his system of philosophy.

  • 25 Artinian, p. 1310 (Pléiade, p. 935).
  • 26 Yarmolinsky, p. 312 (Nauka, p. 281).

23But usually the reader goes along with the distancing that occurs. There is enough objective difference — whether it be social or temporal — between the readers and the character to justify the distancing in the reader’s eyes. At this point, the text has created precisely two groups: in one we find the characters and the unreliable narrator/reflector; in the other will be found the author, the reliable reflector/narrator, and with them the reader. By definition, the reliable narrator expresses values that will tend to be accepted; when he judges a character, we join in the judgement. It is Davranche laughing at his pitiful father, it is Kafka’s traveller, and it is Nikolay denouncing the terrible state of Russia in Peasants. If the reader does not join with the author and the narrator/reflector in distancing the characters, he or she cannot enjoy the story. We can only read in the way the text invites us. In a sentence such as: “ [My father] considered it good form, refined” from My Uncle Jules, we are invited to laugh at the father, and to question his taste.25 Similarly, in Peasants, when the narrator says “ […] going into the log cabin, he was positively frightened: it was so dark and crowded and squalid [...] black with soot and flies. […] The poverty, the poverty! ”, we are invited to share in the reflector’s disgust.26 The reader will adopt the reliable narrator/reflector’s “perspective point” in the technical sense that is used in painting: that is, the point from which one gains the “correct perspective” on the picture. This positioning is imperative to the reader’s enjoyment of the short story.

Notes

1 Henry James, The Art of the Novel: Critical Prefaces (New York: Scribner, 1962), p. 70.

2 The Preface to Princess Cassamassima (ibid, pp. 59-78) in particular, is nearly all dedicated to reflections on the necessity of such “intense perceivers”: “Their emotions, their stirred intelligence, their moral consciousness, become thus, by sufficiently charmed perusal, our own very adventure” (p. 70). James never stops repeating that the choice of a fine conscience is essential. He almost always has recourse to a third person, except for a few texts that are among his most bitter publishing failures. See also Anne T. Margolis, Henry James and the Problem of Audience: An International Act (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1985).

3 Gérard Genette, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, trans. by Jane E. Lewin (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980), pp. 170-75.

4 Wayne C. Booth, A Rhetoric of Irony (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1974), pp. 57-67.

5 Helmut Bonheim perceives that there can be not only unreliable narrators but also unreliable speakers and thinkers. Bonheim mentions this in relation to detective stories, but the phenomenon seems to me also important in “serious” fiction. See Helmut Bonheim, The Narrative Modes: Techniques of the Short Story (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1986), p. 71.

6 Etō Jun, “Nichiōbunka no taishōsei to hitaishōsei”, Bungakkai, 43:1 (1989), 240-52.

7 However, Etō still considers this process to be mechanical, thinking that recourse to one voice and one mode are automatic guarantees of proximity, whereas obviously the same affective terms can be included in a strategy of irony in Japanese as well as in European languages. Note too, with the same reservations on my part, Aleksandr V. Ognev, who talks about the same “compartment” of Genette’s grille in similar terms, and sees in it a general characteristic of the contemporary short story: “ot avtora, no s tochki zreniya geroya” (“in the author’s voice, but with the point of view of the character”). Aleksandr V. Ognev, O Poetike sovremennogo russkogo rasskaza (Saratov: Izd-vo Saratovskogo universiteta, 1973), p. 214.

8 R. Bruce Bickley clearly shows that Melville shares our point of view and not his narrator’s in his short stories (and not only in Bartleby). R. Bruce Bickley, Jr., The Method of Melville’s Short Fiction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1975).

9 John M. Ellis, for example, points out that in all the short stories he has analysed, the text only gains its full value if the reader recognises the unreliable character of the reflector. The meaning of a text such as Heinrich von Kleist’s Erdbeben in Chili (Earthquakes in Chile) is created in a kind of stereoscope in which we see at the same time the scene presented by the reflector and his distortion of it. However, undoubtedly because his limited corpus does not allow for generalisation, he does not extract all the consequences of his analyses. John M. Ellis, Narration in the German Novelle: Theory and Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974).

10 Arthur Schnitzler, Plays and Stories, ed. by Egon Schwarz (New York: Continuum, 1982), pp. 249-79 (hereafter Schwarz). The original German version can be found in Arthur Schnitzler, Das erzählerische Werk (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1981), pp. 207-36 (hereafter Fischer).

11 For more on music as a passion shared by all classes of society in Vienna, see Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York: Knopf, 1980). For more on the story and its use of interior monologue, see Heidi E. Dietz Faletti, “Interior Monologue and the Unheroic Psyche in Schnitzler’s Lieutenant Gustl and Fräulein Else”, in The Image of the Hero in Literature, Media and Society, ed. by Will Wright and Steve Kaplan (Pueblo, CO: Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery, 2004), pp. 522-57.

12 Schwarz, p. 261.

13 Ibid, p. 279. I have modified the translation here (“I’ll knock you to smithereens!”) to be closer to the original: “Dich hau’ ich zu Krenfleisch” — where Krenfleisch is a beef-meat slice to be eaten with horseradish. See Fischer, p. 236.

14 Details of the negative reception of Lieutenant Gustl by the army can be found in Evelyne Polt-Heinzl, Arthur Schnitzler: Leutnant Gustl (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2000), pp. 42-61.

15 Very much akin to this, to my mind, is Simone de Beauvoir’s use of the diary as a framing device in La Femme rompue. Ray Davison emphasises the surprising distance of this intimate format, and quotes the many passages in which the heroine, Monique Lacombe, reveals her petty bourgeois interests and fears. However, Davison is interested in something else: the means that this gives Beauvoir to recognise the pain of Sartre’s behaviour towards her: “In other words, and paradoxically, because Beauvoir is so distanced in her conscious mind from Monique Lacombe […] she does manage to talk about herself [Beauvoir] more interestingly than when she uses the direct autobiographical mode”. Ray Davison, “Simone de Beauvoir: ‘La Femme rompue’”, in Short French Fiction: Essays on the Short Story in France in the Twentieth Century, ed. by J. E. Flower (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1998), pp. 71-88 (p. 72).

16 The same device is found in Maupassant, whose fantastic stories are perhaps the stronger of his works. In the second, Horla, the narrator is so clear-minded that he forestalls each of our comments and suspicions. As a reflector, he is not reliable, but he is reliable as a narrator (in that he analyses what he recounts), and the text gains its power from what is almost schizophrenia; through this we enter a different world, where our logic is no longer valid.

17 On this “American girl”, see Virginia C. Fowler, Henry James’s American Girl: The Embroidery on the Canvas (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984).

18 He is also, except in the cases mentioned above, the narrator in fantastic stories. In order for us to want to follow the character into this other world and to accept the account of events which will make us lose our most obvious points of reference, the short story will usually resort to a narrator or a reflector in whom we have confidence. But it is always in order to stress the strangeness of the world described.

19 Anton Chekhov, The Portable Chekhov, ed. by Avrahm Yarmolinsky (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), pp. 312-53 (hereafter Yarmolinsky). The Russian text can be found in Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii i pisem, 30 vols (Moscow: Nauka, 1974-1983), IX, pp. 281-312 (hereafter Nauka).

20 Nikolay’s wife, too, is used as a reflector at the beginning of the story. Very quickly her style, and her religiosity put her at a distance from the reader; but she will have already fulfilled her role as reflector, which is to jolt us into utter horror.

21 Guy de Maupassant, The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant, trans. by Artine Artinian (Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1955), pp. 1308-12 (hereafter Artinian). The French text can be found in Guy de Maupassant, Contes et nouvelles, ed. by Louis Forestier, 2 vols (Paris: Gallimard, collection La Pléiade, 1974), I, pp. 931-38 (hereafter Pléiade).

22 Ibid, pp. 1309-10 (pp. 934-35).

23 To use Andrew Levy’s words: this is a case, not of having “no link with those socially disenfranchised groups”, but of having “left them back home”. Andrew Levy, The Culture and Commerce of the American Short Story (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 109.

24 Chinua Achebe, Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays (New York: Doubleday 1989), pp. 1-20; and Virginia Llewellyn Smith, Anton Chekhov and the Lady with the Dog (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973).

25 Artinian, p. 1310 (Pléiade, p. 935).

26 Yarmolinsky, p. 312 (Nauka, p. 281).