Literature: “A Pyrenean Adventure” by G.R. Gleig
“A Pyrenean Adventure” is a short story by G.R. Gleig, which narrates the tale of one day experience of the protagonist- a nameless soldier in the British Army, assumingly the author, on the Pyrenean Mountains. This paper analyzes the aforementioned short story in terms of their literary genre and narrative.
The short story can be characterized as a personal observation of a nameless soldier of the British army while occupying the pass of Irun.
The story starts with a first-person description of the beauties of the Quatracone Mountain, where the soldier camped with his regiment. The author expresses his delight with the beauty of nature, which in turn was the premise of the story that made the soldier take the adventure to wander in those areas with his dog.
The story’s pace was slow at the beginning, where the author transferred his observations throughout the little journey. These observations included a beautiful rivulet which awakened a desire to follow it, the towns and the villages which were getting less with the author proceeding further and the highland scenery which “astonished” the author with its beauty.
The first major turn in the story’s narration was the view of the remains of “not fewer than forty or fifty human beings” (Gleig), which was unexpected with its horror scene. The author’s narration expressed through the soldier’s thoughts was commenting on the situation in which the soldier pursuing animals lost his way back to his regiment.
The flow of thoughts in the soldier’s mind indicated the hopeless situation that he came into, and at the same time he never lost his sense of rationality which forced him to proceed further until facing a village where meeting the residents of a cottage in this village indicated the second major turn in the story’s narration.
Meeting with soldiers, who turned to be Spaniard guerillas, introduced the remaining characters of the story, which up until this point were limited to the soldier –the story’s protagonist and his dog. These characters include Captain Francisco, as it was later told in the story, and Manilla, a Spaniard who was given the task to show the way back to the regiment to the soldier.
It is up until this point that the story’s main purpose and genre are not really known to the reader. The dialogue between the soldier and Manilla, which started with the curiosity question in regard to the previously seen human remains, turned out to be the final turning point in the story.
The turn of the narration to the guide changed the narration and the style of the story giving a flashback of the events that led to the horrible ending seen by the soldier. Manilla told the story form which the soldier knew that the village he had seen was inhabited three years ago by eight families, among which was the Captain Francisco’s family.
On the wedding day of Francisco, the French attacked the village, and the disadvantage in number forced the Spaniards to retreat while the French sprang upon the women and the goods killing mercilessly everyone they could.
The story’s cataclysm was revealed when the guide narrated the procedure of revenge that took place in the exact same place where the soldier discovered their remains. The end of the Spaniard’s story ended when the soldier reached his camp, where the soldier and the reader were left with thoughts and impressions of the story they had just heard.
As stated by Eleanor Cotton, “basic to our appreciation of a piece of literature is our perception of its structure.” (Birch 127) Following Aristotle’s classical distinction of genres, based on formal differences (Montgomery 200), the story can be defined as a non-fiction narrative. The assumption that the story is non-fiction was based on assumptions that the story is based on real events, as well as the author’s usage of the first-person perspective.
The genre of this short story was characterized based on the theme, where it is a more difficult task as referring to a particular genre should be made after analyzing other works. In general, due to the war setting, the short story’s genre was classified as a war story.
Analyzing the text based on the narrative, the form, and the content of the narrative should be examined. The content of a narrative is “a collection of represented events, along with the participants in those events, and the circumstances of those events.” (Montgomery 211) The form of a narrative, on the other hand, is “the way in which those events are represented through a particular medium.” (Montgomery 11)
If considering the narrative order, there is a difference in the form order and the content order of the story, which is evident when the Spaniard guide – Manilla was telling the story of the ruined cottages to the author. (Gleig 368)
Another form of difference found in the story in the narrative pace, where the first part of the story described the soldier’s journey on the Pyrenean mountains and was slow-paced, while the second part of the story starting from getting lost and meeting the Spaniards showed an increase in the narrative pace. (Montgomery 212)
In terms of coherence and narrative point of view, there no apparent differences as there were no change in the point of view, as the point of view remained in the first person but changed to subsidiary characters (Montgomery 233), e.g. “I told you that the 8th of June was fixed as the wedding day of Francisco and Amante.” (Gleig 369)
While in regards to the coherence, it might seem that from the start of telling the story by the Spaniard, this subsidiary-story did not make sense at the beginning, while after listening to the end, it became obvious where the author was leading the reader to.
In that sense, the differences in the narrative form and narrative content used by the author were parts of a strategy to show the plot and to make the reader curious to know what was a story about.
Summarizing the paper, it can be seen that the short story was a perfect example of how narration is applied to the development of the plot and how a difference between the narrative content and form can serve as a strategy. The story did not have many elements.
Nevertheless, it can be seen how the author used one little event at the beginning of the story to develop a war vision in the minds of the reader at the end of the narration. In that sense, the elements of the narration were parts as important as the story itself, keeping the reader focused on a growing interest throughout the whole story.
Birch, David. Language, Literature, and Critical Practice : Ways of Analysing Text. The Interface Series. London ; New York: Routledge, 1989.
Gleig, George Robert. “A Pyrenean Adventure.” The Chelsea Pensioners. Colburn, 1841.
Montgomery, Martin. Ways of Reading : Advanced Reading Skills for Students of English Literature. 2nd ed. London ; New York: Routledge, 2000.
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