Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Johnson’s use of the second-person narrator is a distinctive stylistic element. The narrative style, both linear and circular, affects the construction of the plot. The narrator is an alter ego or countervoice that both defines and informs the central character. Certain phrases are used to sustain ambiguity, to challenge the reader’s conception of the main character.

Although the action is based on the act of viewing a film, this act becomes the locus for additional smaller narrative segments. When the man begins watching the film, the narrator presents a brief narrative involving the man’s personal life, especially his relationship with his wife. This segment returns to the main story line. The looping of smaller narratives is part of Johnson’s technique.

The setting is conceived as the interior landscape of the mind, and some of the characters are possibly imagined. The complexity of sentence structure replicates mental processes of recollecting and imagining. The absence of dialogue results from the emphasis on narrative perspective.

Moving Pictures Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Byrd, Rudolph P., ed. I Call Myself an Artist: Writings by and About Charles Johnson. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Crouch, Stanley. “Charles Johnson, Free at Last.” The Village Voice, July 19, 1983, 30-31.

Ghosh, Nibir K. “From Narrow Complaint to Broad Celebration: A Conversation with Charles Johnson.” MELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 29 (Fall/Winter, 2004): 359-378.

Graham, Maryemma. “Charles R. Johnson.” In Afro-American Fiction Writers After 1955, edited by Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris. Vol. 33 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale Research, 1984.

Hardack, Richard. “Black Skin, White Tissues: Local Color and Universal Solvents in the Novels of Charles Johnson.” Callaloo: A Journal of African-American and African Arts and Letters 22 (Fall, 1999): 1028-1053.

Johnson, Charles. Interview by Jonathan Little. Contemporary Literature 34, no. 2 (Summer, 1993): 159.

Johnson, Charles. “John Gardner as Mentor.” African American Review 30 (Winter, 1996): 619-624.

Little, Jonathan. Charles Johnson’s Spiritual Imagination. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997.

McWilliams, Jim, ed. Passing the Three Gates: Interviews with Charles Johnson. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004.

Nash, William R. Charles Johnson’s Fiction. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.

Olderman, Raymond. “American Literature, 1974-1976.” Contemporary Literature 19 (Autumn, 1978): 497-527.

Peterson, V. R. “Charles Johnson.” Essence 21 (April, 1991): 36.

Rushdy, Ashraf H. A. “The Phenomenology of the Allmuseri: Charles Johnson and the Subject of the Narrative of Slavery.” African American Review 26, no. 3 (Fall, 1992): 373.

Steinberg, Marc. “Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage: Fictionalizing History and Historicizing Fiction.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 45 (Winter, 2003): 375-390.

Storhoff, Charles. Understanding Charles Johnson. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004.