Unicorn in the garden

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  • Publié le : 3 janvier 2011
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This text is a story written by James THURBER in 1940 and taken from the collection Fables for our time. It is entitled The unicorn in the garden.


There are three characters in the story: a man, his wife and a unicorn. None of them is named.
The story begins as follows: one morning, a man who was having breakfast while his wife was stillin bed upstairs beheld a unicorn eating the roses in the garden.


First we will focus on the characterization chosen by the author to depict the couple and build the narrative.
Then we will try and identify the literary genre this text might belong to .


The characterization of the two main protagonists is clearly laid out in the text:

From line 1to line 25: The narrative is focused on the husband
From line 26 to the end: It shifts onto the woman

Line 1 to 25
At the beginning of the story, we are told that "the man sat in the breakfast nook" (l. 2). The narrator then uses action verbs to help us follow the man's movements conveying the impression that he kept moving, going up and down the stairs, in and out of the garden. We canquote the verbs associated to the man and notice all the prepositions used: "looked up - went up - woke her - walked downstairs - went upstairs - went back..." Eventually, in line 25, we've come to a full circle since he is back where he originally was.(I quote "the man sat down among the roses")

Meanwhile, we are told that his wife was lying in bed, still.

Hence from the very beginning, the twocharacters are presented as two opposite, different and probably conflicting people.
The husband is very active, always in movement, joyful "with a high heart" (l15). He is overwhelmed with excitement, thrilled by his discovery and of course, he is so enthusiastic and excited he can't believe his eyes and wants to share his joy with his wife.
He is so astonished at such a sight that heprobably thinks he's daydreaming or prey to hallucinations.

She , on the contrary, doesn't move and hardly reacts. She's still and motionless. She obviously doesn't believe him (I quote line 9 "The U. is a mythical beast"). She remains incredulous and doesn't pay credit to what he says. We can assume, because of the adverbs "unfriendly" l. 8 and "coldly" l. 18 that she did not appreciate beingdisturbed in her sleep. Her attitude towards him (l. 10 "turned her back on him") clearly shows that she thinks he's talking nonsense and becoming mad.

Despite his efforts to convince his wife he's telling the truth, "the man pulled up a lily and gave it to the unicorn" l. 14), she still refuses to believe him. She even threatens to put him in a mental hospital. (lines 18, 19)

By choosing thoseverbs and adverbs, the writer aimed at contrasting the two protagonists. The man seems to be a naïve, excited, nearly an obstinate lunatic.
She, on the contrary, is described as an incredulous, hostile and hateful woman.
She seems poised and balanced whereas he is agitated he nearly seems insane.

The way the author describes the attitudes and feelings of the two characters helps the readerunderstand that there is a gap/ a discrepancy between them, that they've probably been married too long, for years maybe, and that she can no longer stand him. She may have had enough of him and has horrible intentions as she expresses them in line 18.


From line26, the characterization of the woman changes. She is associated with verbs and adverbssuch as "got up - dressed as fast as she could - telephoned and telephoned again - asked to hurry...". She is said to be "very excited and gloating”. (l.27)
Meanwhile, he is asleep.

This change in her attitude is striking. Her excited, energetic, impulsive behaviour contrasts with her previous attitude. She is in a hurry now and wants to hold the situation into her hands.
It is her turn to be...