In the excerpt below, examine the role of narrative transitions in enhancing the narrative.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

McCuller's use of narrative transitions in describing Lymon's traits helps to illuminate both elements of plot and of characterization.  In the excerpt, Lymon begins to immerse himself in the town.  The opening of the excerpt details how Lymon is able to easily connect to strangers in a meaningful way.  He has a way of moving his own voice and condition from margin to center.  At the same time, Lymon is shown as being able to make friends of people who were once strangers:  "... picking his way along to inquiries which were downright intimate."  The movement of Lymon from outsider to social insider becomes evident here.

This becomes the point of first transition in the narrative.  It transitions the narrative scope into something wider from merely Lymon.  It enables Lymon's qualities and his attributes to becomes reflective of the town.   Once the "downright intimate" quality of Lymon's questions become clear, the narrative moves to its influence on the townspeople.  The "group was joined" with the likes of other men like idlers "who had sensed something extraordinary," as well as Henry Macy and the "women who came to fetch their men who lingered on."  This narrative focus now moves to the townspeople, exploring how Lymon's infectious spirit appealed to many.

The second narrative shift takes place when McCullers is able to broaden Lymon's qualities into social trends. This wider approach moves the narrative into one more direction, in which the reader is able to reflect about Lymon's qualities in their own being in the world.  The idea of a person like Lymon possesses qualities of solidarity "only found in small children" helps to enhance this shift into a more reflective mode.  This shift allows the reader to internalize the transformational social impact Lymon has on a personal level.

Lymon becomes the subject of this excerpt.  It is his influence on others that drives the excerpt.  Lymon's effects on those around him is the excerpt's focal point. This is enhanced through his characteristics that are illuminated. One such trait is the sense of inquisitiveness that Lymon possesses.  Lymon's desire to ask questions and to increase his understanding of those around him are reflective of his inquisitiveness.  The questions he would ask individuals enabled people to speak of themselves, but also to trust him as he begins to know more of people.  Another characteristic that Lymon possesses is a communitarian one.  Lymon's approach in the excerpt activates the ability for community to emerge.  McCullers supports this in her description of Lymon as one who possessed "an instinct to establish immediate and vital contact between him and all things in the world."  A final characteristic that Lymon displays is one of belonging.  Through his questions of others, Lymon shows himself to belong in the context of the town.  It was as if "he had lived in the town for years," like he was a "well- known character."  

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The Ballad of the Sad Café

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