Among the prominent stylistic devices that Alex La Guma uses are third-person narration, dialogue, and vernacular language. The entire story uses an omniscient, third-person narrator who can provide all the characters’ thoughts and tell each element in the story’s action, as well as fill in background information, such as events that occurred before the action begins. The characters frequently converse, and their dialogue is written in the vernacular, or the ordinary speech of the people of their ethnic group and class. Among its typical features are the frequent use of slang and contractions. Words of phrases in Afrikaans are interspersed in the English sentences.
La Guma employs extensive use of imagery, with complex descriptions. These include visual images as well as long lists of items that would be seen in the setting described, and sometimes repetition for emphasis. One street is described as
A half mile of sound and movement and signs, signs, signs: Coca Cola, Sale Now On, Jewellers, If You Don’t Eat Here We’ll Both Starve Now….
The author also uses figurative language, such as similes and metaphors, which are two types of comparison. A simile uses “like” or “as” to compare two unlike things for effect, while a metaphor is a direct comparison.
These are some of the similes: A man in a striped suit spoke “in a high, cracked voice, like the twang of a flat guitar string.” On the street, Michael Adonis runs into his friend Joe, whose face has
an ageless quality about it under the grime, like something valuable forgotten in a junk shop.
A metaphor is added to a simile in describing Michael’s anger after the policemen stop him.
[T]he feeling of rage, frustration, and violence swelled like a boil, knotted with pain.