Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The technical strength of “The South” lies in the deliberately inserted elements that suggest more than one interpretation of the events presented in the text. The story contains several subtly presented clues that imply that Dahlmann’s trip to the South is a product of his feverish delirium. All these clues are found in the second half of the story, which depicts Dahlmann’s actions after his supposed release from the sanatorium. For example, when Dahlmann pets a black cat while waiting for the train, he thinks his contact with the cat is “an illusion.” Once on the train, he feels as if he were “two men at the same time,” one of these free to travel, the other still “locked up” in the sanatorium. The train ride itself is unconventional, as it appears to be a trip “into the past and not merely south.” Later, Dahlmann thinks that he recognizes the owner of the general store, but he then realizes that the man simply bears a remarkable resemblance to an orderly at the sanatorium. When the ruffians begin to taunt Dahlmann, he is surprised to learn that the store owner already knows his name, even though Dahlmann has never entered the store in his life. Additionally, the gaucho who tosses Dahlmann the dagger is not a gaucho typical of the 1930’s but one whose appearance is more in line with the protagonist’s own romantic vision of the region. Finally, there are the words of the narrator as Dahlmann prepares to fight: “He felt that if he had...

(The entire section is 493 words.)