EnglishLiterature NotesM A English

The summary of the short story The Voice by V.S. Pritchett.


By: Naeem Sulehri, M Asalm Warriach

The story is about two characters both of them are clergymen. Lewis is a middle-aged man while Morgan is an old man. Both are Welsh. Morgan buries under the debris, Lewis also fell down in a hole while rescuing him. Morgan can sing. The story starts with an announcement by the rescue team. The members of the rescue team request the people to keep quiet so that they may listen to the voice coming from the debris of the church. The building of the church has been demolished because of a bomb dropped during the war. The bomb has brought down the front wall and the roof and the balcony has sunk too.

When the people become silent, the sound is heard by the rescue party. The find that the man buried under the debris is singing. Soon the voice becomes clear and two of the rescuers take up their shovels and shout to encourage the buried man. The voice becomes stronger and now the words can be heard. The man under the debris is singing a hymn.

The clergyman is standing with the warden in the middle of the destroyed church. The warden recognizes the voice and says it is Mr. Morgan. The Clergyman, middle-aged Mr. Lewis first frowns at the warden and then says how it can be Morgan. How can he go in as the church door was locked inside?

The rescue workers go on digging the debris. They have made a hole as wide that now a man is down in it filling a basket with his hands. The dust rises as a cloud of smoke from the hole as the works. The voice does not stop singing. It goes on, rich, virile, masculine, from verse to verse of the hymn. The voice is shooting up like steam from the rubbish. The clergyman is thinking, “Must he sing so loud, must he advertise himself? I locked up myself last night. How the devil did he get in?”

To Lewis, Morgan is the nearest human thing to the devil. Morgan was Lewis’s predecessor in the church. He has been expelled from his services because of his habit of drinking and smoking. Lewis thinks that it is a sort of punishment for Morgan that he is buried under the debris now. But he, according to Lewis, is singing shamelessly from the rubbish with elaborate pride of art and evil.

Suddenly the sloping timber slates begin to skate down and the warden cries for the man working in the hole to come out. The man comes out after a hard struggle and there is a big collapse. There are clouds of dust everywhere. Everyone runs away from the spot. They look behind at the wreckage. They all stand there frightened and suspicious.

The man under debris stops singing. This time it is the clergyman who moves ahead. He gets down on his knees and goes into the hole. Mr. Lewis cries, “Morgan” twice. Finding no answer he begins to scramble the rubble away with his hands. He once again shouts Morgan’s name and finds no answer. Now he snatches a shovel from a man and starts digging and shoveling the stuff away. Everyone is astonished at his action of digging frantically. The clergyman disappears under a ledge made by the timber.

The part above only heard “Morgan….it’s Lewis. We’re coming. Can you hear?” Morgan shouts for an ax. The people above hear him smashing and scratching like a dog or rabbit. When he cannot find any clue of Morgan, he begins thinking that the silence is unbearable. He shouts Morgan to sing. “Sing! God will forgive you everything, only sing!”

Lewis works in the tunnel for half an hour. An extraordinary thing happens and the tunnel grows to damp its floor becomes soft. Suddenly Lewis’ knees go through. There is a yard open gap. Lewis finds himself looking down into the blackness of the crypt. He lies down and puts his head and shoulders through the hole and calls, “Morgan! Are you there, man?”

The voice asks, “Who is there”? Lewis replies that it is he. Is he (Morgan) hurt? Tears start gushing out of Lewis’ eyes. He is full of sympathy for Morgan. But when he learns that even in this condition the insolent Morgan is drinking whisky.  The idea of whisky being in his church makes his soul rise like an angered stomach. When Lewis asks Morgan that how did he get in while he had locked the church door. Morgan replies that he has got his own keys. After this, there starts a row between Lewis and Morgan. During the course of their quarrel, they hear the splitting sound of something breaking. The floor crashes down and the hole in the tunnel is torn wide and Lewis grabs at the darkness and catches aboard. He cries for help but falls down. Lewis lies panting on the floor. Morgan says that Lewis should not have been here after him. He also tells that it is his daily routine to here for drinking. Lewis listens to Morgan’s voice, “It was low with shame, it had the roughness of the earth, the kicked and trodden choking dust of Adam.  The earth of Mr. Lewis listened for the first time to the earth of Morgan.  Coarsened and sordid and unlike the singing voice, the voice of Morgan was also gentle and fragmentary.” After it both of them start singing.

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