The Secret Miracle
by Jorge Luis Borges
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Objective yet Sympathetic; Portentous
The narrator of "The Secret Miracle" adopts a mostly-objective tone, relating the events of Jaromir's imprisonment and execution the way a news station might tell a human-interest story on television. Just the facts, ma'am:
On the nineteenth, the authorities received a report from an informer. (2)
Clear enough, right? But we can't help but feel sympathy toward Jaromir. All of the details we get about the unfairness of Jaromir's fate, along with the mental torture that he puts himself through, make us feel really sorry for the guy.
The other distinguishing feature of the tone here is its portentousness. In other words, the narrator makes us feel like something hugely important is about to happen, and that fate is at work in the narrative. Check it out:
[T]he clocks chimed the hour of the inescapable game. (1)
Even this simple phrase makes us feel like the weight of the world is on Jaromir's (and our) shoulders. And this fateful tone is all over "The Secret Miracle," from the title, to the plot of Jaromir's play, and even to little details like the inescapable iron staircase that leads to the execution yard (9). It's all pretty ominous, don't you think?