Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Man of the World” creates much of its effect from its naïve, innocent view of the world. Even though the first-person narrator is looking back with some amusement and no little exasperation at his earlier self, he maintains something of the confusion and wonder of childhood and never intrudes with an adult’s perception. O’Connor perfectly renders Larry’s sense of wonder in the way he sees his world: “The least thing could excite or depress me: the trees in the morning when I went to early Mass, the stained-glass windows in the church, the blue hilly streets at evening with the green flare of the gas lamps, the smells of cooking and perfume.” In contrast, Jimmy’s world has no wonder or excitement. Everything is already known and all issues are settled. He cannot change his nature or the way he sees the world.

There are two distinct styles in the story: the naïveté of Larry and the sophistication of Jimmy. Larry is obsessively curious about everything, but he feels that he cannot discover the true nature of things. He sees and describes only appearances, but those appearances make up the world of O’Connor’s fiction. Jimmy thinks he possesses knowledge about the secrets of the neighbors or the nature of a young woman, but he is blind to the world that goes on around him as he ignores the concrete world of the story and intrudes on the lives of others. Jimmy has only opinions about his world; he never sees it as truly or fully as Larry does. Jimmy’s style is minimalist. It consists of the few judgmental remarks and pronouncements he makes about the people in his world. It has none of the detail of Larry’s lovingly observed world.


(The entire section is 685 words.)