Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Lovelace’s story succeeds in his capacity for compact but complex characterization. Arnold and Norbert come fully alive through descriptive exposition and dialect: They sound like a crusty, aging shoemaker and his carefree assistant. The dialogue is rapid; Arnold displays his propensity for outraged rambling, and Norbert delights in what he suspects may be a profound idea, that one must accept death in order to live completely. West Indian rural English echoes throughout sentence fragments without subjects and patois variants of subject verb agreement. Even the closing sentences’ use of the noun dead instead of the verb die (first in Norbert’s final remark and again in the narrator’s assumption of Arnold’s sensibility) helps unify characterization with theme. As the narrative voice develops, the point of view and the use of dialect in the narration mingle increasingly with that of the characters’ dialogue: A community of characters and narrator results, and the omniscience of the narrator is no longer detached but found now among the characters.

To complicate the characterization further, Lovelace reverses roles for Arnold and Norbert. This reversal occurs when Arnold’s cynical despair causes him to throw down his shoes while Norbert works on, reminding him of the remaining repairs. The reversal unifies theme with character development; by exchanging their customary roles of diligence and indifference, Arnold and Norbert complement each other in a microcosm of community. When the girls enter, Arnold continues the reversal in his attention to them, enlarging the metaphor for the community to include an implicit sexual (hence, natural) basis. The reversal proceeds when Arnold buys the rum, and, by the time they reach Britto’s celebration, both enter fully into that yet larger community, one founded on family and tradition. Subsequently, the reversal strengthens the renewal of both men, a renewal symbolized by New Year’s Eve and the scent of aloes (a plant with healing properties). In the closing moment of the final scene, Arnold and Norbert stand out in relief, whole individuals yet intimate members of a vital community.