Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In Mary Hood’s story the people and landscape blend together to create a picture of the rural community. It is full of local color, descriptions of country ways and customs. Almost every paragraph contains such regional expressions as “she sent him round to the front door like company” or “the lights were on like a funeral was happening.” Characters become part of the setting as they perform ordinary little acts such as polishing “a little twig smooth as a chicken bone.” Adding to the flavor of country life, the characters’ speech is marked by grammatically incorrect expressions such as “that don’t differ.” Characters exchange bits of country wisdom as they go about their daily tasks. One character observes that “old folks don’t wear out their shoes.” Elizabeth says of one farmer, “God never gave him quittin’ sense.” When Montgomery asks Elizabeth if she thinks he looks old, she replies “You’re you. Just yourself. Born in God’s time and going to last till you’re done.”

Hood describes scenes in realistic detail. She portrays a domestic scene with such images as “the tap-tap-tap of May flouring the cake pans.” She shows us watermelons on chipped ice in a galvanized tub and a landscape filled with verbena, mint, lavender, geraniums, Shasta daisies, and hollyhocks. She captures the sounds of country life: crickets and June bugs, the slam of screen doors, the pop-pop-pop of Uncle Billy’s gun as he shoots at the “laughing crows.” The local customs, regional expressions, rituals, sights, and sounds of this community provide the key elements of this story.