First published in Mademoiselle in 1957, Gina Berriault’s ‘‘The Stone Boy’’ catapulted its author to national fame after it was made into a movie in 1984. Even before this widespread recognition, ‘‘The Stone Boy’’—which was included in the author’s first collection of short stories, The Mistress, and Other Stories (1965)—had helped to solidify Berriault’s reputation as a writer concerned with the serious issues of the human condition. Despite acclaim from prominent reviewers as well as other American writers such as Andre Dubus, who called Berriault ‘‘a splendid and unheralded writer,’’ Berriault has not won the attention of a wide body of readers. Molly McQuade expressed regret in the Chicago Tribune Book World that Berriault’s work ‘‘has not met with a splashy success or even with the sustained and sustaining respect that it deserves.’’
Readers who do take note of ‘‘The Stone Boy,’’ however, are rewarded with an accomplished yet compact story filled with complex human emotions and relationships. Set on a small family farm, ‘‘The Stone Boy’’ tells the story of nine-year-old Arnold who accidentally and fatally shoots his older brother. When Arnold does not respond to this event emotionally, his family assumes that he must be some sort of ‘‘monster.’’ As the story unfolds, Arnold, thus isolated from those who are closest to him, turns himself into the image that his family now holds of him. The story demonstrates the immeasurable, almost insurmountable, effect that other people’s opinions have on the self-perception of people, especially younger people. It also raises socially important questions about how and why children develop into the adults they become.