Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Aunt Granny Lith” makes use of superstitions and folkways of the Appalachian Mountains to give this modern story of a woman trying to keep her man the archetypal authority of an oral folktale. To make the combination plausible, Offutt situates his story in a remote mountain area of eastern Kentucky where belief in the old ways is still quite strong. Nomey, Beth’s mother, has knowledge of charms and tokens from her own mother and passes this knowledge on to Beth.

Although for the most part, the story seems to take place in the real world, albeit a world only lightly touched by modern civilization, there is still something supernatural about Aunt Granny Lith herself. Her old ways as a midwife have been superseded by the new hospital that has gone up in the region, and it may be plausible that she now lives in a cave. However, it is unlikely that she is able to maintain a hold on Casey without the story assuming some supernatural element, suggesting that Aunt Granny Lith has magical powers.

The story maintains a sense of plausibility while at the same time allowing something of the magical. Therefore, while not strictly a folktale, it is not strictly a modern realistic story either, but rather a careful balancing of both. The blending of the two elements is achieved by the dual time frame of the story. In the past, Casey has mistakenly pledged himself to another woman, the folklore figure of Aunt Granny Lith. In the present, Casey, now...

(The entire section is 419 words.)