Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The style of “Short Friday” is that of the fable or folktale. The language is simple and direct; the natural and the supernatural (the couple’s awareness after their death) are treated on the same plane.

A significant example of the story’s fabulistic style is the use of foreshadowing to prepare for the couple’s fate. On the Friday of their death, a portrait is painted of an exceptionally cold and bleak day in which darkness and daylight are indistinguishable. As the evening and the beginning of the Sabbath approach, the sky grows clear and a full moon arises. Clearly, this Friday is marked by divine intervention; the town and the heavens have merged and the couple’s home is at the mercy of God. What is perhaps being suggested is that, ultimately, all return to God.

It is noted that Shmul-Leibele loves warmth, and for this he pays a dear price. In another allusion to fire, at the bathhouse Shmul-Leibele uses a willow broom against his skin “until his skin glowed red.”

Premonitions of death and danger are present as well throughout the story within the context of the couple’s marriage. After Sabbath services, Shmul-Leibele hastens home because he worries that Shoshe may be in trouble. The couple speak often of their fate should one die before the other. It is clearly a dreadful thought for Shmul-Leibele: “God forbid! I would simply perish from sorrow. They would bury us both on the same day.” He need not have feared, for in death as in life they are united.