Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The death of Tom Lennon is foreshadowed from the story’s first sentence, when the narrator relays the information that it is the last time Lennon and Sharkey will go rabbit hunting. Though the story’s point of view is generally located near James Sharkey, it reveals itself to be third-person omniscient when it provides information that the characters explicitly do not know. Throughout the story, the reader is given access to the inner thoughts of only one character, Sharkey. By providing analysis of his motivations that goes beyond Sharkey’s own consciousness, however, the omniscient narrator leads the reader to a greater understanding of his motivations than could be revealed simply by relaying the protagonists’ words and actions—certainly a greater understanding of Sharkey than Sharkey himself could attain.
Several objects, events, and conversations in the story serve to highlight the themes. The failed racing dog functions as a symbol for life itself when Lennon comments that the in-between kind, neither a dud nor a champion, is the worst kind to have. The hat that James Sharkey wears without fail, like the priest’s collar, is a symbol of the sublimation of the fear of death. At times in the story, his hat comes to represent Sharkey himself, as at Lennon’s graveside, when his hat is described as standing amongst the hatless men and women. Because Sharkey’s life has been subsumed by his obsession with his own loneliness and inescapable mortality, the hat is a logical symbol, especially because the death of his only friend has reaffirmed both of these inevitabilities.