Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Petry’s style has been described as “rich and crisp, alive and alight on the page . . . charged with sense and pleasure.” It has also been said that her style always supports her main intent. Both of these statements may be applied quite accurately to “Solo on the Drums.” An example of the degree to which Petry fuses style and meaning is her making her protagonist a drummer, for the drum has always been the most important single instrument in the creation of African and African American music. Traditionally, in African societies, the drum was used as much for communication as for entertainment. Thus, while Jones plays the drums for the entertainment of his audience, some of his reveries reveal the more pragmatic use of the drum. At one point in the narrative, Jones imagines himself the drummer in an African village; as such, he is responsible for keeping the people informed of important events. He is “sending out the news. Grandma died. . . . The man across the big water is sleeping with the Chief’s daughter. . . . The war goes well with the men.”

Throughout this brief story, there are references to the communicative power of the drums. Sometimes this is done quite directly, as when Kid Jones, deep in reverie, thinks that the drums are talking about his life. Often, however, it is merely implied through Petry’s use of language. The drums are often spoken of in terms generally reserved for human beings. At one time, they are said to respond with a whisper; at another time, they talk to the piano; at yet another time, they answer the horn. In both overt and more subtle ways, Petry skillfully interweaves thought and style in “Solo on the Drums.”

Solo on the Drums Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bell, Bernard. “Ann Petry’s Demythologizing of American Culture and Afro-American Character.” In Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition, edited by Marjorie Pryse and Hortense J. Spillers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Clark, Keith. “A Distaff Dream Deferred? Ann Petry and the Art of Subversion.” African-American Review 26 (Fall, 1992): 495-505.

Ervin, Hazel Arnett, and Hilary Holladay, eds. Ann Petry’s Short Fiction: Critical Essays. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004.

Gross, Theodore. “Ann Petry: The Novelist as Social Critic.” In Black Fiction: New Studies in the Afro-American Novel Since 1945, edited by A. Robert Lee. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1980.

Hernton, Calvin. “The Significance of Ann Petry.” In The Sexual Mountain and Black Women Writers. New York: Doubleday, 1987.

Holladay, Hilary. Ann Petry. New York: Twayne, 1996.

Petry, Ann. “A MELUS Interview: Ann Petry—The New England Connection.” Interview by Mark Wilson. MELUS 15 (Summer, 1988): 71-84.

Washington, Gladys. “A World Made Cunningly: A Closer Look at Ann Petry’s Short Fiction.” College Language Association Journal 30 (September, 1986): 14-29.