Reading, Short And Deep #139 – Silhouettes by Jerome K. Jerome


Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #139

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Silhouettes by Jerome K. Jerome

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

Silhouettes was first published in English in The Idler, February 1892.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

2 thoughts to “Reading, Short And Deep #139 – Silhouettes by Jerome K. Jerome”

  1. I am very much enjoying your podcast. This story offered a pretty realistic interpretation to me.

    “A tall, grey woman, bending beneath a load of driftwood,” … “fixed her eyes upon the breaking surf above the Bar,” and said, “Ah, how I hate your white teeth.” Probably the woman who gave Parsons the earrings and thinks he was drowned after a collision with the sandbar.

    “…the thing at the bottom gleamed white. Sprawling there among the black pebbles it looked like a huge spider.” After 40 years, the body is just a pile of bones.

    “That’s young Abram Parsons, I tell you, as lies down there,” said the “grizzled” old woman who noticed the earring. “I ought to know. I gave him the pair o’ these forty year ago.”

    Another woman in the crowd exchanges meaningful glance with a “withered, ancient man who leant upon a stick.” These two somehow tied to death of Parsons.

    The illustration shows several smokestacks, so the black land and black water is the town where the narrator lived that is just covered in soot. And the story of the guy on strike who lets his wife and baby nearly starve suggests large industry close by.

    Narrator lives in “a big, lonely house on the edge of a wide common” which has a front gate with iron bars (and presumably a wall) that is impenetrable to the old man seeking refuge and the angry mob out to get him. Spokesman for the mob addresses narrator’s father as “master” and they have servants, so it seems like the father is a man of some position or authority, perhaps a minor noble, government official, sheriff, or even just the rich owner of one of the polluting businesses in the area. He tells his wife to send a servant to get another mob, because he knows the first mob will not be deterred.

    The “crouching figure” that “crept along” is the man from the beach who no longer has his walking stick. There is no mention of rain, but he wipes his eyes with a rag and it is wet enough to ring out. Either tears or sweat, as he knows the mob is out to kill him for the murder of forty years ago. He seeks sanctuary with the narrator’s father, who grants it and protects him with a club that was hanging on the wall.

    The second and larger mob show up and the situation is resolved by bringing the crouching figure to the town or county jail, for protection or to await trial. “Clanking of iron chains.”

    Upon returning home, the narrator’s father’s statement of it all being “over” and that they would “need to start the world afresh” seems to mean they have to move because of this incident. Was the narrator’s father’s industry somehow involved in the death of Parsons (narrator’s grandfather was involved perhaps?) or his protection of the man from the mob will lead to insurmountable ill will in the town.

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