Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” is a story-within-a-story, that is, the old man’s tale is framed by the dramatic situation involving the boy, Leo, and the bleak café. Here, however, the frame does not merely serve as a technical device to justify the old man’s narrative; rather, the two stories complement and reinforce each other. Although the tale of betrayal and lost love serves as the centerpiece of the story, an equal amount of space is given over to the action within the café: The boy shifts in his seat, the man lowers his head, Leo prepares food with characteristic stinginess. Both stories are about the failure of human sympathy, and the fact that the old man is unable to find a wholly sympathetic listener makes the story doubly tragic.

Unlike most of McCullers’s work, “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” is not set specifically in the South; indeed, no specific locale is mentioned. The two principal characters are unnamed, nor is any indication given of the date or of the season. This deliberate indeterminacy lends a chilling universality to the story, transforming it from a story about a tired old man’s ramblings to a sort of allegory about the limitations of love.

A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud. Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Carson McCullers. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

Carr, Virginia Spencer. The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 2003.

Carr, Virginia Spencer. Understanding Carson McCullers. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990.

Clark, Beverly Lyon, and Melvin J. Friedman, eds. Critical Essays on Carson McCullers. New York: G. K. Hall, 1996.

Cook, Richard M. Carson McCullers. 1975. Reprint. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1984.

Evans, Oliver. The Ballad of Carson McCullers: A Biography. New York: Coward, McCann, 1966.

Evans, Oliver. “The Theme of Spiritual Isolation in Carson McCullers.” In South: Modern Southern Literature in Its Cultural Setting, edited by Louis D. Rubin, Jr., and Robert D. Jacobs. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1961.

Gleeson-White, Sarah. Strange Bodies: Gender and Identity in the Novels of Carson McCullers. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003.

Graver, Lawrence. Carson McCullers. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969.

James, Judith Giblin. Wunderkind: The Reputation of Carson McCullers, 1940-1990. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1995.

Jenkins, McKay. The South in Black and White: Race, Sex, and Literature in the 1940’s. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

McDowell, Margaret B. Carson McCullers. Boston: Twayne, 1980.

Savigneau, Josyane. Carson McCullers: A Life. Translated by Joan E. Howard. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Shapiro, Adrian M., Jackson R. Bryer, and Kathleen Field. Carson McCullers: A Descriptive Listing and Annotated Bibliography of Criticism. New York: Garland, 1980.

Tippins, Sherill. February House. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Walker, Sue. It’s Good Weather for Fudge: Conversing with Carson McCullers. Montgomery, Ala.: NewSouth Books, 2003.

Westling, Louise. Sacred Groves and Ravaged Gardens: The Fiction of Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.