Mr. Loveday’s Little Outing by Evelyn Waugh

6 June 2016

By Evelyn Waugh The story under consideration is “Mr. Loveday’s Little Outing ” by Evelyn Waugh. A prolific English novelist and short-story writer, he is admired for his elegant style, brilliant wit, satire and humour. “Mr. Loveday’s Little Outing “, first published in 1936 in « Mr Loveday’s Little Outing. And other sad stories » collection, is a perfect example of his style. Like many other Waugh’s best stories, “Mr. Loveday’s Little Outing ” takes place in Britain at the beginning of the twentieth century. The story follows a young lady, Angela Moping, who visits her mentally ill father in an asylum. Visiting her father, who has been in an “asylum” for many years for the attempt to commit a suicide , Angela meets Mr Loveday, her father’s caretaker.

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Mr Loveday, who produces the impression of an absolutely sane person, is also an “inmate” (patient) of the asylum [ə’saɪləm] because of committing a murder. Angela thinks that the thirty-five years Mr Loveday has spent in the “asylum” cured him, so she arranges his release. Once released, Mr Loveday goes on his outing and commits another murder. The story falls into three parts each being a logical development of the previous one. The opening paragraph represents a special source of interest. Being communicated in a form of a dialog, it captures the readers’ attention, immediately involving them into the story and engaging them emotionally. The immediate setting at the beginning of the story also serves as a background and presents a vivid, highly emotional description of time, place, people and the main characters.

The setting is revealed through an array of flashbacks which not only depict necessary information but determine the tone and the mood of the whole story. The author deliberately creates gloomy, sombre, dark, unstable, changeable atmosphere which conveys the general mood and warns the readers about future events. Waugh instantly achieve this with the reference to the changes of the weather – “sunshine and squall, another twenty minutes of sunshine; another squall.”

The setting is a compelling element of the story which creates a particular mood of tension ,elicit the reader’ immediate interest and engages the reader emotionally. The setting also introduces the protagonist – Angela Moping, a young, inexperienced, naive girl from a prosperous and well- to-do family. The author doesn’t provide us with the description of her age or appearance, so we are to draw some conclusions based only on the heroine’s actions, speech and behavior. Loveday seems to her a reasonable, reliable, safe man, but she’s too naive to understand the real menace this man constitutes. Having established the atmosphere of darkness, the author introduces another main character – Mr. Loveday.

He immediately creates the impression of a kind, understanding, sincere, gentle and absolutely sane person who helps disinterestedly the staff of the asylum(“an elderly little man with full white hair and an expression of great kindness”). One can’t even imagine that such a person is able to commit a murder. This divergence [daɪ’vɜːʤən(t)s] between his appearance and the fact of murder creates a set of binary opposition in the story. The domineering peculiarities of the story are contrast and gradation. The story is partly a narration, partly a dialogue , and the form of narration constantly changes. The types of narration supplement [‘sʌplɪmənt] each other, and are very often presented in one and the same paragraph. The plot represents another source of interest as it is communicated in an unusual and extraordinary way.

The plot not only recounts the events and uncovers clues but helps to increase the tension by means of gradation. The author strengthen the tension throughout the whole story, so the reader is somehow prepared for such a horrible ending. He constantly hints to some tragic ending. But the climax is revealed only at the end of the story, and the reader is brought up to the very end, which makes the ending even more unexpected, striking and shocking. From the point of view of tempo the plot develops gradually increasing the tension little by little and bringing the reader closer to the climax. The dominant prevailing tone of narration is rather satirical with a slight touch of sadness.

The irony and sarcasm run through the entire story. It can be easily proved by some scenes e.g. the scene of ceremony devoted to Mr. Loveday’s departure from the asylum. The title is puzzling, ambiguous and not clear in meaning at first sight but it is also suggestive and very symbolic. The title acquires true, final sense only at the end of the story .Mr Loveday’s so called” Little Outing” leads to tragic but inevitable consequences of his madness. I would also like to draw your attention to the language of the story as it is really worth mentioning. The language is rich, expressive and imaginative. The story abounds in stylistic devices – epithets, metaphors, and hyperboles (“to smile whimsically, a gentle self-regarding smile of reminiscence[ˌremɪ’nɪs(ə)n(t)s]”) which make the story extremely vivid and lively.

On the whole the story touches upon the themes of madness and insanity. It engages the reader’s attention to the fact that mentally ill people, unfortunately, in most cases can’t be cured. Another idea tackled in the story concerns our decisions and their consequences. Angela Mopping in her futile attempt to help Mr. Loveday doesn’t estimate the consequences of her decision which leads in the end to irreparable consequences. Brilliantly written in a highly emotional key with bright wit and inclusions of dark bitter humour, “Mr. Loveday’s Little Outing “, however, is a complex, meaningful, thought provoking story with subtle implication, which stirs the reader’s feelings and emotions and leaves much room for meditation.

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