In "Winter Night," by Kay Boyle, what time of day does the story begin?
Good question! The title of the story suggests that it takes place in the evening, but rather than assuming that the answer to this question is in the title, we should check the text to be sure. Here's the first sentence of the story:
"There is a time of apprehension which begins with the beginning of darkness, and to which only the speech of love can lend security."
As the narration continues, we see that seven-year-old Felicia is being taken care of by a maid, who is about to leave for the day. A baby-sitter will be coming to watch Felicia, but the little girl's mother won't be home until after Felicia is asleep.
These details suggest that the story opens in the early evening, just when everything is starting to get dark, and when it will soon be time for Felicia to get ready for bed. We also know that it's winter time in New York in this story, so we expect it to start getting dark fairly early--maybe around 5:00 or 6:00pm.
Now that we're sure we know what time of day the story begins, a good follow-up question is, "Why is that significant?" or "Why does that help us understand the story more clearly or more deeply?"
If we understand the disappearing daylight and the darkness as a representation of the unknown, and fear, and perhaps loneliness, we can better understand Felicia's situation and why she attaches herself so quickly and so emotionally to the new baby-sitter: to this stranger who offers attention and kindness to Felicia.
So, the story's opening in the evening is important because it illustrates Felicia's descent into a state of fear and loneliness. It would be difficult for the author to show the little girl's sad emotional state if, for example, the story began with beautiful rays of morning sunlight streaming into a window of the home.