Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
In “The Stone Boy,” Berriault creates symbols within the context of the story to direct readers toward a meaning that is not apparent on the surface. For example, nowhere in the story does the author say that the roles assumed by members of the family are stereotypically patriarchal, resulting in the reenactment of old patterns of behavior, in which sons and fathers sometimes engage in violent actions to keep each other and “their” women in their “rightful” places, as the places are defined by the dominant culture. By creating patterns made up of various telling details in the story, however, the author points readers toward this kind of reading, which gives surface action a meaning far beyond itself and invests characters with motivations deeply embedded in their subconscious.
It is possible for the reader to ignore the elements of symbolic structure and to accept surface content as all there is. Such reading of a symbolic story will cause the reader to miss important, complex, and universal relationships. More depth of interpretation ensures understanding of concepts continually present, linking the past and possibly the future.