Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In writing, “Children of Strikers,” Chappell keeps a considerable distance between himself and his subject. As an objective observer, he describes the landscape and the appearance of the children, and he continues to play this part as he reports their actions and their conversations. Even when he reveals their thoughts, as in the poignant passage when the girl looks into her dismal future, Chappell refrains from making the kind of comment that one might expect from an omniscient narrator. By thus restraining himself, he avoids the possibility of becoming sentimental or of showing his own feelings about such injustice. By simply outlining the situation and permitting readers to draw their own conclusions, he makes the story far more effective.

Although self-effacing, the author does not absent himself from his story. It is his voice that provides all the descriptions of the river, Fibertown with the factory towering over it, and of the children themselves. Without such details—which the children could scarcely be expected to provide—readers would have an incomplete picture. Moreover, the very difference between the perceptions of the adult observer and those of the inexperienced children emphasizes the latters’ vulnerability. For example, the author reveals that the polluted river has a terrible odor. This in itself is bad enough, but when he goes on to say that the children are hardly aware of the smell, it is evident that they have lived with it so long that they simply take it for granted. They are too innocent to realize that they are being victimized.

Chappell’s skill in juggling voices is also evident in his conclusion. Here he uses his own heightened lyrical style to reveal feelings that the children cannot express. Not until the final sentence, however, does Chappell finally make what might be considered an authorial comment, but even then the poetic quality of his prose leaves the words open to interpretation. Like the children themselves, Chappell’s readers are left in a world that seems to be ruled by darkness.