Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Greene’s stories frequently demonstrate a liberal use of irony, providing both a comic turn and poignant message. The irony in “Across the Bridge” is expressed through the personal observations of the narrator, who knows more than the other characters, thus providing the reader with an informed point of view. Through the narrator, the reader can find irony by contrasting what other characters believe and what is actually true. The reader becomes part of the audience in the story who watches Calloway’s story unfold. Comic scenes such as that in which the detectives fail to recognize their suspect are made funnier by the presence of the knowing, incredulous audience in the square, of which the reader is a part.

The narrator also expresses the irony in Calloway’s dying gesture: What he may mean as a blow is seen by others as a kind, loving motion to his dog. Calloway, who has habitually kicked his dog, is now the loving master reaching out to hold his loyal pet to his very last breath, even though the dog is the key to Calloway’s demise. Readers may believe that they know better, but in the final paragraph, the narrator changes his tone. After having looked skeptically on Calloway’s “caress,” he now concedes that this gesture could actually have been a loving one. Here, the narrator assumes a “humble” position, which for Greene symbolizes the limited knowledge that human beings have.

Although the narrator generally seems to...

(The entire section is 440 words.)