The language in the short story “Every Good Boy” by David Nicholls is intended to reflect the perspective of a nine-year-old child. Consequently, it is rather simple, humorous and easy to follow. However, the choice of words also reflects the context of the events, namely the boy’s attempts to learn how to play the piano. As such, there are numerous references to composers and songs, both pop and classical. Here are but two examples from the text: “…delicate and precise renditions of popular classics, hymns, old Noël Coward numbers above the general clamour of TVs and revving mopeds and bawling.” (ll. 35-37); “…I tripped and stumbled through a simplified piece of butchered Haydn, slaughtered Brahms, disfigured Beethoven” (ll. 89-90)
Most of the story is rendered through narrative descriptions, but dialogue is also employed occasionally.
In the short story, the author creates a lot of imagery (visual and sensory images) which help readers visualise the events. Most of it is related to the piano and the characters. Here is one example, describing the narrator’s piano: “The monster was installed in our tiny lounge, looming oppressively over the settee like an angry drunk, smelling of bitter and Benson & Hedges.” (ll. 20-21)
Symbols: The role of the piano
¨The most important symbol in the short story is the piano, around which the whole narrative revolves.
In the short story, the role of the piano is beyond that of a simple musical instrument. For the boy-narrator, the piano is a bad sign and an evil creature which he cannot tame, for he never learns to master playing the machine: “The monster was installed in our tiny lounge, looming oppressively over the settee like an angry drunk, smelling of bitter and Benson & Hedges.” (ll. 20-21)
The keys were chipped and discoloured like fungal toenails. […] Even with the lid down, the machine oozed malevolence, thrumming along to the TV as if possessed. Two treacherous candle-holders sprouted from the black lacquer like horns... (ll. 23-25)