Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although there are other characters and actions in the story, the focus of “Another Part of the Sky” is internal. To help focus attention on Collins and his thoughts, Gordimer uses a limited third-person narrator who knows nothing that Collins does not know, presenting all the action only as Collins experiences or remembers it.

The reader may begin to question Collins’s understanding of the world and his part in it, but the narrator does not push this questioning. No overt judgment is made of Collins—no words such as “patronizing” or “selfish” are allowed. Working within these constraints, Gordimer allows hints about Collins’s flaws to emerge subtly from his own reflections, without his even noticing them.

Because the story unfolds late at night when Collins’s wife pretends sleep, there is little need for talk in the story. What little speech there is—the governing board’s consoling words to Collins, his own conversation with the grieving Ngubane—flows naturally into the paragraphs with neither indentations nor quotation marks. The only objects mentioned are those that Collins sees or touches. Gordimer chooses not to put the reader into the moment but instead to keep the reader inside Collins’s mind, to give only his reflections on a moment.

When the sudden moment of insight comes, it surprises the reader as well as Collins. The realization has to do with Collins’s humanity, not just his politics. By filtering every image and speech through the lens of Collins’s own mind, the story demands that the reader see Collins as an individual, not merely a representative of his race.