‘Porte-Cochere’ by Peter Taylor

Taylor, Peter 1949

Porte-Cochere by Peter Taylor, 1949

The magic trick:

Judging the characters equally (harshly)

I swear this is the same set of characters from Taylor’s (much later) “The Gift Of The Prodigal.” Both stories process the relationships between aging fathers and their homecoming sons. The narration in “Porte-Cochere” is interesting in that it appears to offer up no judgment. Or at least that’s what I thought at first. But after looking at it again, I think it’s actually nearly the exact opposite. The narration offers up total judgment. This story judges every character with every sentence. Either way – whether it’s no judgment or constant judgment – the effect is the same: the characters are placed on a level playing field for the reader to interpret as we wish. And that’s quite a trick on Taylor’s part.

The selection:

His manner was self-possessed and casual, but Old Ben felt that he didn’t need good sight to detect his poor son’s ill-conceived haste to be off and away. Cliff had in fact turned back to the stairs when his father stopped him with the question spoken without expression and almost under his breath. “Why did you come at all?”

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