Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“City of Boys” is told in the first person, present tense, as are all the stories in the collection of which it is a part, City of Boys: Stories (1992). There are no paragraph indentations and no quotation marks. When the stream of consciousness of the narrator changes, this is indicated merely by a double space between lines.

The result of this type of narration is that the reader seems to be reading the mind of the narrator, experiencing only her thoughts, her impressions, and her memories. This technique is heightened by the fact that almost none of the characters are given names, and none are described physically.

First-person narrative often gives the reader a sense of realism, but this is not quite true here. Although the events described are quite realistic, there is a sense of a dreamlike quality to the narrator’s musings. The events are not told in chronological order. There seems to be no outside world, and the settings are described in a minimal way. The apartment is tiny and infested by vermin, but the reader does not know what it contains besides the bed. The description of the clubhouse is similarly limited.

New York City functions only as the setting for the narrator’s thoughts. The setting is used to magnify the sense of despair; any unpleasant area of any city would do as well. Also, the characters have no function outside their relationship to the narrator. They are never shown when they are out of her presence, and what sort of lives they really lead remains unknown.