Analysis of Narrator in Alice Elliott Dark’s “In the Gloaming”

Alice Elliott Dark’s short story In the Gloaming captures Janet’s emotional turmoil using a selectively omniscient narrator. The effect of the third-person point of view allows the reader to sympathize with both Laird and Janet. However, because the narrator is strongly aligned with Janet, therefore in touch with her inner-thought and feelings, we can also view the story from the perspective of a mother. If Dark had written In the Gloaming in the first-person, the story would have lost its stark view of reality.

Janet’s use of “I” would have moved the focus away from the relationship between her and Laird, and towards the psychological effects Janet suffers from as a consequence her son predeceasing her. This shift would be capable of erasing all intimacy between Janet and Laird.

We Will Write a Custom Case Study Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Martin’s uplifting, caring, and moving question, “please tell me – what else did my boy like? ” (268) would sound flat, sarcastic, and cruel. Janet, given the opportunity, would minimize her son’s illness, instill hope and optimism in the reader, and close the story with a happy ending.

By writing in a selectively omniscient style, Dark strips Janet of controlling the reader and reality. Similarly, a third-person narrative would construct an icy barrier between mother and son. A simple, third person point of view would obstruct the growing intimacy between Laird and Janet, and exaggerate the distance Martin has created from his family. If the narrator were omniscient and strongly aligned with both mother and son, Janet and Lairds’ emotions would conflict and intertwine, forming too many connotations and complexities for a short story.

Also, their intricate relationship may have harmed the clarity of life and death. A completely omniscient narrator would give too much away about Laird, and leaving the reader with little to ponder. Because we don’t know the extent of Laird’s pain, the reader can only assume Laird passed away in pain and agony, “finishing his last piece of work in fretful stitches”. (267) This selectively omniscient style of narration exposes the villain in Dark’s short story as a thief in the night.

Dark uses the selectively omniscient point of view to evoke the reader’s sympathy with the characters. While Laird and Martin are viewed abstractly, the narrator aligns powerfully with the mother.

Dark uses this style of narration for the reader to experience a mother’s relationship with her son. The selective omniscient view also illustrates the development of Laird’s disease, and his appearance from a mother’s eyes. “He became the way he’d been as a child, before he began to cloak himself with irony and clever remarks”. 255) As the two characters become more comfortable with each other, we are able to see more than just their relationship, but Janet’s eventual acceptance of her son’s terminal illness. Dark uses a selectively omniscient point of view to expose Janet’s slowly decreasing denial of her son’s condition.

The layer of inner emotions complements the external interactions in the story. Alice Elliott Dark’s In the Gloaming is a gloomy short story told in a selectively omniscient point of view.

This style of narrative gives us the insight of a mother watching her son slowly deteriorate. Because the narrator only aligns with Janet, the reader can understand Janet’s feelings without a first person narrative skewing the reality of Laird’s condition and ultimate death. By using a selectively omniscient third person narration, Dark avoids unnecessary and overwhelming emotional and relational complexities, and emphasizes the growing relationship between mother and son.