Undecorated language

The Wireless Set is written in mainly undecorated, almost straightforward language. This could be seen to mirror the lifestyles of the inhabitants of Tronvik. There is lots of direct speech between characters and the nature of this speech reflects their practical, simple attitudes towards life.

Betsy said to him, ‘How many lobsters did you get?’ He moved past her and the missionary, without speaking, into the house. Then from inside he said, ‘I got two lobsters.'

The fact that Hugh knows of Howie’s death without having been told, and the way he is rightfully suspicious of the wireless, highlights an element of wisdom that has been imbedded in his character.

Use of dialect

Of the six George Mackay Brown set text short stories, The Wireless Set is the most regular in its use of Orcadian and Scottish dialect, for example:

  • "This is thine, mother," said Howie.
  • "Do you ken," said Hugh, "he canna hear a word you’re saying."

Use of dialect underlines the social class of the characters. These are traditional Orkney people, represented in the way that they communicate.

There is contrast between the Orcadian speech and the language coming from the wireless. Brown warns that, if people do not question modernity, soon the Orcadian voices will be replaced with the consistent speech coming from the wireless.


The wireless set that Howie brings to Tronvik symbolizes progress. In this case that means war, propaganda and death.

The wireless set brings the isolated valley of Tronvik in touch with the war. It leads Howie and three others from the island to join the war effort and eventually costs Howie his life.

Hugh associates the wireless set with Howie’s life. When he smashes it, leaving it a tangled wreck, it is in an effort to rid the valley of what he perceives to be a threat to their island traditions. Modernity and the impact that it has on human life is an issue that is still relevant all over the world.

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