Robert Penn Warren Short Fiction Analysis
Many of Robert Penn Warren’s stories feature an adult protagonist’s introspective, guilty recollections of imperishable childhood events, of things done or left undone or simply witnessed with childish innocence.
“Blackberry Winter” (the literal reference is to an unseasonable, late spring cold snap) opens with a nine-year-old boy’s unbroken, secure world, a small community permeated with the presence and warmth of protective loved ones. A vaguely sinister city-clothed stranger happens by and is given a job burying drowned chicks and poults by the boy’s mother. Later the boy watches with his father and neighboring farmers as a dead cow, the yoke still around her neck, bobs down a flooding creek past fields of ruined tobacco plants. Then the boy finds a somehow shocking heap of litter washed out from under the house of his father’s black help. Dellie, who lives there, is sick in bed with “woman-mizry,” and after calling him to her side, gives her son little Jebb a sudden, “awful” slap. Big Jebb predicts that the cold snap will go on and that everything and everyone will die, because the Lord is tired of sinful people.
Later on, when the boy’s father explains that he cannot afford to hire any help now but offers the stranger fifty cents for a half day’s work, the stranger curses the farm and leaves, followed by the curious boy, whom he also curses. “You don’t stop following...
(The entire section is 2108 words.)
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