Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Told in the first person, the story has a confessional style. It begins with the narrator sharing his first sexual experience with the reader, then proceeds quickly to explain the strange case of madness that existed in his family.

Although a tale of an insane and alcoholic relative might easily be a sad one, the author tells it with humor, and this becomes his favorite device. His description of the uncle’s maniacal episodes turns comical when he quotes the insults that his uncle hurls at other townspeople. The mayor and his frail old wife are the madman’s favorite targets, followed by the priest and three nuns from the Sisters of Charity—the very characters least likely to commit the scandalous deeds of which they are accused.

The most comical figure, however, is the cow, which García endows with human qualities. At night, after the uncle has forgotten to pick her up, the boy and his father search for her, and they eventually find her waiting patiently, although a bit confused. Whenever the uncle has a fit as he leads the cow somewhere, she “would stop, look at him stoically, as if she knew this was the cross she had been given to bear.” After the uncle is taken to Galveston, the narrator’s mother and grandmother cry each time that they see the cow. Never knowing what it is about herself that brings tears to their eyes, the poor animal looks “inquiringly from one side of herself to the other, as if looking for some clue.” The humor that García employs in the telling of this story is without a doubt the main factor that allows one to describe it as bittersweet.