Short Story Cycles

The Tales of Frederick Philip Grove

The twenty-three stories in the original version of Frederick Philip Grove’s Tales from the Margin comprise a cycle: characters recur and the locale is limited to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta: the Canadian Prairies. This paper will examine how our perception of Grove’s cycle alters when the stories are viewed as tales. This is the label the author preferred. As he explained in his essay “The Novel,” while the short story deals with characters and incidents “excised” from the “social body” (It Needs to Be Said 120), the tale is concerned with the “border-provinces of human life” or life “on the margin.” Because tales belong to the oral tradition, the style of oration and identity of the teller are also important. Chaucer democratized tales by proving that anyone, irrespective of economic class or educational background, could tell a tale so long as it had sustaining interest to command an audience; Poe used the genre as an invitation to a fantastic, psychologically layered fictional world; and Washington Irving employed narrators who were dramatic figures in their own right, filtering his tales through them (Fallon xvii). These three elements–the levelling of class barriers, psychological penetration, and a subjective narrative style–are relevant to a discussion of Grove’s Tales from the Margin. Perhaps a fourth element is incredulity, for when someone says that he or she is telling a tale, we know that the truth is likely to be stretched. This applies to tall tales, many of which Grove told about his own life (Spettigue 21) in pseudo-memoirs, convincing generations of Canadian readers that he had emigrated from Sweden, rather than Germany, and inventing an alternate biography for himself.

[The text above is the first paragraph of the article – in lieu of English abstract]

from: Andrew James, “The Tales of Frederick Philip Grove”, Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 64 | Spring 2015, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2017, consulté le 26 octobre 2022.


Note: This article contains some interesting observations about the tension between author and editor’s perspectives when it comes to creating a short story cycle.


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