Topic and Frame of Analysis
William Trevor published these twelve short stories under the uniting heading of ‘After Rain’. There is more to this term than the aspect of weather, or even the atmosphere after rain described in the title story (VI 92, 94). For Trevor, the term catches a brief moment between rain and the reemerging, scourging sun. Being genuinely interested in human relations, he takes this moment onto a metaphorical level, describing a short moment of grace. This can mean a sudden understanding of one’s own psyche or the forces governing one’s relationships. Trevor tries to catch a glimpse of those instances in people’s lives when they have a chance to change the tracks of the daily grind, or at least have a sudden clear vision of their clouded, yet encumbering problems. Because the author is not a man of grand words or of grand characters, it would be inappropriate to speak of ‘epiphany’ in Joycean terms or of ‘salvation’ in a religious manner. Nevertheless, a certain solemnity pervades the stories, not necessarily in direct religious terms, but in the combination of esthetic writing, colorful descriptions of landscape and characters and in a humble approach to life as such. Trevor’s interest is in the ordinary, somewhat twisted characters, in their struggle to make sense of their lives – and this is what makes him a humanistic writer.
This is the frame for all of the twelve short stories in this collection. Yet each is a self-contained story with different characters, different relationships, and settings. Accordingly, the theme of ‘after rain’, a potential moment of relieving consciousness, comes in variations, adapted to the texture of life it encounters. It is in this sense that I will try to present (most of) the short stories.
Resolution: After Rain – A Friendship
Since the stories do not seem to be strictly ordered, I will start with the sixth story, After Rain, whose title not only refers to the theme of this collection, but which also provides the most direct insight into what the author envisioned with this term. The main character, Harriet, returning to the Italian village of her childhood vacations after the end of a love affair, finds tranquility in an unknown painting of The Annunciation in the village church. She feels the soundlessness of the moment captured in the painting, a moment where everything has already been said. “The distant landscape is soft, as if no heat has ever touched it. It isn’t alarm in the Virgin’s eyes, it’s wonderment. In another moment there’ll be serenity.” (92). After a relieving shower of rain and in the coolness of the church, Harriet suddenly has a revelation about her life so far: that she is still mourning about her parents’ separation, and has unconsciously sought comfort in her love affairs. She now realizes that they could never offer a solution, because the problem lies within herself. “Too slick and glib, to use her love affairs to restore her faith in love: that thought is there mysteriously. She has cheated in her love affairs: that comes from nowhere too.” (92). The dust being washed out of the air and from the piazza, the sun now reluctantly blinking out of a watery sky (92/93), Harriet experiences a similar purgation. She identifies the pattern that her dolor over her parents’ separation has created in her life, her craving for love in relationships which could not replace the loss of her family ‘nest’; and, having made that realization, she can finally shake this pattern off and start anew, unburdened by her former life. The vivid descriptions of the painting and the changing weather guide the reader through these stages of Harriet’s revelation.
After Rain thus addresses a recurring topic in the collection: the connection between the instant of soft, watery sunlight after rain and the moment in a person’s life when some insight or even resolution is possible. Although this seems to be primarily a metaphoric connection, I believe that the author himself is closely connected to nature. For someone deeply interested in the small changes of atmosphere in people, there must be the same interest in those changes in nature – and his detailed countryside, weather, and color descriptions certainly enhance this feeling. Trevor is also befriended with many people from the art world.
The choice of a sacred painting points to another prevailing theme in the collection: religion in its everyday appearance. When Mary was told about her virgin pregnancy with a god child, this must have been a great shock, a hard-to-understand event she would have had to come to terms with over time. In the painting, “the Virgin looks alarmed, right hand arresting her visitor’s advance.” (91). In the same way, every human struggles with the confines of her or his own life, bewildered at its meaning. At most times, the heat of everyday pettiness fogs the mind and soul, but a shower of rain purifies the senses and brings a short moment of grace: the possibility of a deeper understanding of one’s conditio humana. This is not to be understood as a complete resolution; it is a brief glimpse of soft release, a moment of grace where the mind and the soul – intellect and emotion – come together to create a small insight, a brief escape from the confines of one’s self.
 This interest in such decisive short moments goes well together with the form of the short story, which itself is “the art of the glimpse” according to Trevor (Interview p. 135).
 “I’m always trying to get rid of a big reason […]. Human reasons, for me, are more interesting than political ones.” (Interview p. 130); “As Frank O’Connor said, ‘Short stories are about little people,’ and I agree. I find the unheroic side of people much richer and more entertaining than black-and-white success.” (Interview p. 136).
 In Lost Ground and The Potato Dealer (145), where the collection makes direct reference to the Protestant and the Catholic Church, they are mostly portrayed as to their deficiencies rather than their spirituality.
 See interview p. 145.
 I maintain this view although Trevor rejects the term itself (Interview p. 133). However, the way he says he feels with “the same intensity about the housewife with the lipstick” as about “some family that has suffered in the Ulster crisis” (Interview p. 128) and the primacy of human relationships for his writing (“something that exists between two people, or three, […] the relationship between people comes first.” (Interview p. 129/130).
 “For a moment in the foyer of the cinema she closed her eyes, as she had hen they told her they weren’t to be a family any more.” (94) Here we see the parallelism, although unknown to Harriet up to that point, between the end of her relation and the eviction from her family nest. She now realizes she can stop to reenact that haunting moment and go on with her life.
 “She has been the victim of herself: with vivid clarity she knows that now and wonders why she does and why she didn’t before.[…] The story of Santa Fabiola is lost in the shadows that were once the people of her life, the family tomb reeks odourlessly of death. Rain has sweetened the breathless air, the angel comes mysteriously also.” (95/96).
 In the interview Trevor shows how well he knows every detail about his characters and scenes (p. 139, 142).
 Interview p. 125.
 Bewilderment is a recurrent term in the collection: Eddy in Timothy’s Birthday (51,52); Harriet and her ex-boyfriend in After Rain (89); Alicia in Widows (112); Reverend Cutcheon in Lost Ground (161).
 for example Francesca and Philip in A Friendship, p. 25.
- Quote paper
- Anonymous, 2006, William Trevor: After Rain, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/66804