Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Given its dramatic occasion, it might be expected that “Firstborn” would positively teem with metaphors concerned with birth, breeding, newness, and succession. In particular, events seem primed for meditations on the miracle of paternity, the joy of motherhood, and the like. The events of the story, however, preclude such obviousness.

The style of “Firstborn” is essentially plain and direct. Occasionally, however, sentences become flamboyant and plethoric, infused, so it seems, with a surge of energy greater than that required to complete the fundamental task of narrative. The unpredictable occurrence of the latter type of sentence is an effective enactment of a central feature of the story, its “moral stamp” (Larry Woiwode applies the phrase to Tolstoy). This feature is the capacity for erratic change exemplified both by Charles and by Katherine, their ability to grow and, ultimately, to outgrow.

In a sense, because of the random interplay of differing syntactical tensions (from directly informative simple sentences to more complex units conveying difficult emotional conditions), it might be said that the author does not possess a particularly distinctive style. Although obviously a lover of language, Woiwode does not treat language with very much indulgence. He is ready to use a colloquialism as a verbal gem. One reason for this apparent casualness is that it effectively communicates the sense of improvisation and...

(The entire section is 533 words.)

Firstborn Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Connaughton, Michael E. “Larry Woiwode.” In American Novelists Since World War II, edited by James E. Kibler, Jr. Detroit: Gale Research, 1980.

Dickson, Morris. “Flight into Symbolism.” The New Republic 160 (May 3, 1969): 28.

Gardner, John. Review of Beyond the Bedroom Wall, by Larry Woiwode. The New York Times Book Review 125 (September 28, 1975): 1-2.

Gasque, W. Ward. Review of Acts, by Larry Woiwode. Christianity Today, March 7, 1994, 38.

Marx, Paul. “Larry (Alfred) Woiwode.” In Contemporary Novelists, edited by James Vinson. 3d ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982.

O’Hara, Barbara. Review of What I Think I Did, by Larry Woiwode. Library Journal, June 1, 2000, 128.

Pesetsky, Bette. Review of Born Brothers, by Larry Woiwode. The New York Times Book Review 93 (August 4, 1988): 13-14.

Prescott, Peter S. “Home Truths.” Newsweek 86 (September 29, 1975): 85-86.

Woiwode, Larry. “An Interview with Larry Woiwode.” Christianity and Literature 29 (1979): 11-18.

Woiwode, Larry. “An Interview with Larry Woiwode.” Interview by Ed Block, Jr. Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 44, no. 1 (Fall, 1991): 17-30.

Woiwode, Larry. “Interview with Woiwode.” Interview by Shirley Nelson. The Christian Century, January 25, 1995, 82.

Woiwode, Larry. “Where the Buffalo Roam: An Interview with Larry Woiwode.” Interview by Rick Watson. North Dakota Quarterly 63, no. 4 (Fall, 1996): 154-166.