Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story is told in the third person, as if by someone who was not within the action. The story’s first word, “she”—which begins five sentences in the opening paragraph and then begins the second paragraph—limits the point of view to what the child, Jennie, could be present to observe; and the meaning of the actions of all of the characters is presented as it would be understood by a child. However, William Melvin Kelley provides sufficient details that adult information is simultaneously communicated to the reader, to build the reader’s adult understanding of the characters and the situation in which they find themselves. Kelley thereby focuses the reader’s attention, interpretation, and evaluation on this episode in life as it would affect a child, which is to say a person who is entirely innocent, precious, and vulnerable. It is in the context of a threat to a child’s well-being, and perhaps life, that the reader, with adult perception of the characters’ actions, evaluates human life and the life-threatening actions that are motivated and sanctioned by greed and racism.