Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Much of the story’s impact rests on the author’s skillful use of point of view, which shifts in each of the narrative’s three parts.

All of the information provided to the reader in the first part of the story entitled “At War, At Home” is filtered through the memory and imagination of the son Bryan. It is clear to the reader that this is the adult Bryan trying to draw a picture of his father during the war years and after his own birth in 1947. In the portrait of his father before and during the war, Richard is referred to in the third person as if he were some historical figure; but as the narrative progresses to a time when Bryan could bear witness to his father’s behavior, the “he” becomes “you” as if Bryan were trying to address his father in his now adult voice.

In the second part labeled “My Elder Son,” Richard gets an opportunity to tell his side of the story. He uses the second person as if he is addressing other fathers and asking for their sympathy. “You start off with a child, a son, and for the first six years he’s on your side.” As he moves toward puberty and beyond, however, “you’re afraid of his next phase—afraid of how the finished product will compare with the block’s other boys.” In essence, Richard is looking for absolution. He admits making mistakes, but he wants the reader not to think of him as a “tyrant” or a “villain.” He keeps repeating that he wanted “too much” for...

(The entire section is 525 words.)