Barnes conveys the significance of the story through the use of symbols. One of the most obvious symbols is the game of cricket. To Sir Hamilton, cricket represents a community of rich and poor, brought together by individual skills. Barnes uses the game as a means of revealing social assumptions. The privileged aristocrats enjoy the leisure activity. Sir Hamilton mulls over the various ways that he and his friends care for their cricket bats, while his gardener is forced to ride outside of their coach in the rain. Sir Hamilton could consider the real needs of the working poor around him, but nothing in his education or lifestyle encourages him to do so. He occupies himself with the game instead. Melons, too, are given special attention in this story, so that readers can hardly avoid pondering their possible symbolic significance.
They appear in the first section as a local delicacy, a natural wonder that represents the best of southern rural France. Their sweetness is so remarkable that even a young nobleman who is trying to affect a cool attitude raves about them. In the story’s last segment, Lady Evelina tries to keep Sir Hamilton from slipping into depression by urging him to focus on the wonderful melons they have with their lunch. He finds himself unable to concentrate, though: for him, the melons resemble such things as the cannonballs that have been used to smash the Catholic Church (representing the wanton violence that escalated throughout the revolution) and, of course, cricket balls (representing, for Sir Hamilton, humanity’s potential for excellence). The connection is in the layered meanings: the wealthy aristocrats ate melon and played cricket while other human beings starved; the revolution hurled at them in response, changing their personal worlds permanently, though not permanently removing upper classes from power.
Barnes establishes the character of Hamilton Lindsay by having him speak for himself in the first section of the story. Given the type of person he is, it is effective to have him express himself in a letter. A work of fiction that is presented as if it is a letter written by one character to another is called “epistolary.” There are several reasons why the epistolary style works well for this character. For one thing, he is literate and thus has the means to record his thoughts and ideas effectively. For another, as a gentleman, he would use this formal form of communication. Finally, as an apparently historical document, the letter comes to the reader as an artifact of that era, a way of seeing the aristocratic lifestyle prior to the revolution and the attitudes that incited lower classes.
Later in the story, Barnes drops the epistolary form with its first person point of view and adopts the third person to describe Sir Hamilton’s mind. This shift gives readers some distance from the character, enabling them to see the level to which he falls, against the backdrop of massive social and political change.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 24, Julian Barnes, Published by Gale Group, 2006