Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Short-story writers or novelists undertake few challenges as difficult as telling their tale by using an immature narrator. Entrusting the boy to tell the story related in “Spring Victory” was a venture full of pitfalls for Stuart, and his ability to sidestep so many of them is one mark of his accomplishments as a writer of short fiction. The primary problem of this device is that the narrator cannot seem more mature than his years allow, yet he or she must be capable of giving the insights that the writer wants to convey—about the people in the story, about the interpretation of their actions, and about life in general. A story concocted by a real child is full of childishness, but readers of serious fiction expect a story to be coordinated and meaningful. Satisfying the expectations of readers while giving the illusion that the story is actually being told by a child creates a situation in which the believability of the action, let alone the believability of the narrator’s character, is constantly in danger of rupture.

Through a careful manipulation of the narrator’s language, through his tone of voice as well as through what he merely implies, Stuart makes both the action of the story and the character of the young narrator seem real. The narrator’s terseness shows a child not yet very proficient in his use of language, yet his observations are keen and vivid nevertheless. Stuart balances the boy’s personality, which at times is almost...

(The entire section is 454 words.)