Robert Graves lived from 1895 to 1985, and was a novelist, poet as well as a translator of the English Language. Robert Graves has been a vivacious author, and has won acclaim as an author of the accounts of the First World War, in his book called 'Good bye to all that' republished in 1957. His poetry about the First World War he was recognized as being one of the sixteen Great War poets in 1985. These poets were honoured on the slate stone that was unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner as an edifice respecting their contribution to the narration of the war.
Through his life span, Robert Graves has worked on various aspects in literature, ranging from autobiographical accounts, to historical novels. His works also include translations of Greek mythology as well as historical novels such as King Jesus, I and the Golden Fleece. Robert Graves's memoirs particularly his experiences in the First World War have been historical accounts of great world events and have earned him a legendary repute as an English writer. For his language, and his particularly styled and set stories, Graves won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for I, Claudius and Claudius the God in 1934, which has been his most successful work commercially.(Liukkonen, Robert Graves, 2008)
All these events have had a bearing upon the vaious short stories that he narrates in this book, as short incidences of real life accounts that happened to him. Complete Short Stories was published in 1978 in Middlesex England. The book and especially the short story by the name of 'The Viscountess and the short-haired Girl' was a story depicting local colour, and is an insightful rendition of the local cultures of Spain and England. These accounts have been taken from his life, which he spent in Majorca, Spain, leaving in 1936 for the United States when the Spanish Civil War broke out. He returned with his new wife, Beryl Hodge whom he married, leaving his first wife Laura behind.
Robert Graves was not very well-known for his fictional writing as he was for his historical accounts, which is also reflected in this short story revolving around a court case that will give the Viscountess the freedom to marry the man of her choice. The story can said to be reflective of his experience and his thoughts about the First World War, where he was taken away from his own people, bundled together with other men from his area, in a foreign country to testify in a case. Despite his efforts and frolicking however, it turns out that the case was not needed at all, and that it was the ulterior motive of the lawyer and the detective to get money out of the lady. In the same way, the governments and the military robbed the old lady or the people of their respective countries of their money for the World War, which was not needed in the first place. The issues of the world could have been solved amicably, but they weren't, and people, such as Graves himself had to go and fight the useless war.
The short-story was an interesting read, and in its fictional plot gave out real details that can be useful to outsiders seeking a peak into Majorcan affairs to learn more profoundly about local colour. This is the beauty of literature that brings culture alive and keeps it fresh and interesting in a reader's mind, being entertaining and enlightening at the same time.
Presentation of Short Story
This collection of short stories is set as a narrative of individual experiences that take an interesting form of expression to make them more appealing. The genre is a collection of fictional accounts, and is set in context, with the culture and the backdrop explained in order to orient the readers of what will follow in the text. It is as a window to the life of another person, seen from his perspective with the reader being unaware of what the character is actually thinking.
Even though Spaniards are known for their loyalty, the tale depicts them also as men of opportunity, as men who cheat their wives without any moral guilt whatsoever, as a means of entertainment. This can also be representative of how a majority of men perceive this act, and how today this still holds true.
The stories are presented in a simple manner, with a clear narrative that weaves through a complicated tale of events and tricks that are known to lawyers and detectives, and yet sniffed out and grabbed upon by apparent simpletons
The short story chosen here is presented as a narrative within a story by the author. It is a frame story, where he is telling his story through the words of another, and in the process is weaving a tale of lies and treachery. However, where the story begins is in the current scenario after the incident ends, and depicts all the men in the same position as when they started. It could be one of the lessons that Graves seeks to give implicitly that no matter how cunning a man is, his avarice and deceit can't really put him out of his poverty. (Graves, The Viscountess and the short-haired Girl, 1978)
Presentation of Local Colour Short Story
Local colour implies how the local cultural values, norms and traditions are presented in the story, and in this case it is presented in terms of the manner in which the people get and eat their food, the location and the geographic relief of the place they belong to, along with how they manipulate their affairs. Therefore, in this collection, local colour is presented in the settings, and in how characters interact, rather than the personality if each individual. (Campbell, Regionalism and Local Color Fiction, 1865-1895, n.d.)
. It talks of idiosyncrasies that differentiate rural men from urban characters and how, when these two collide, the stronger, urban culture tends to dominate. Local colour is not presented by the characters as it is by the setting and the plot.
Synopsis of "The Viscountess and the short-haired Girl"
The story which is a narration of an account given by Master Toni is set in Majorca and London, and through the events that are depicted, the manner in which each character speaks and thinks are all aligned to the particular culture that the characters belong to. (Witalec, Regionalism and Local Color in Short Fiction -- Introduction, 2004)
The story is vivid in its depiction of local colour, so that the plot seems to have taken a background purposefully, while the ethnic and cultural settings and their expression seems to be the author's prime motive. Set somewhere in the 50's with the details and the characters portraying corruption.
The characters in the plot are Master Toni, PP Jones, The Viscountess, Mr. Charles Estrutt, Damian, Sentia and the Dark Haired Girl. Before going on to discuss each character in some detail, it is important to understand the fact that the story is written as a narration by Don Roberto of a story told by Toni to him. The story, from the perspective of Master Toni, seems to show Toni as the protagonist of the story, a street smart man who enabled his friends to make a fortune. It can be seen from how the story starts with the current situation, that Toni set out to help the Viscountess as a false witness in her case against a certain dark-haired girl with the idea of using the money she paid him to get a new car, but the story's epilogue indicates that Toni was the owner of the same car currently as he had begun with initially.
The plot of the story begins with Master Toni being asked by Estrut and Jones, detective and lawyer, respectively for the Viscountess, to bear witness to the fact that they had seen the short-haired girl in their area along with a Bulgarian artist, where the girl, was supposed to the daughter of the viscountess, who had been kidnapped by the Bulgarian. And Toni, Damian and Sentia were asked by them to go to London to bear witness to the fact that the girl had been treated badly by the Bulgarian. This story was fed to the men by the Detective who wanted to appeal to the religious morals of these three gentlemen in order to have them agree to testify for the Viscountess who was grieved in this affair.
However, as the plot unfolds, the detective aboard the ship to England tells Toni and Damian, that he had lied to them, and that the dark-haired girl is not the Viscountess's daughter but is her lover's wife, and that the Viscountess needs to prove the girl to be an adulterer in court. This would enable the viscountess's lover, a fox-hunting officer, to get divorced from his wife, who he would prove to be a cheater so that the viscountess and the officer could then get married.…
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