Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Linda Hogan is a poet as well as a fiction writer. It is with a poet’s sense of imagery that she details the images in “Aunt Moon’s Young Man.” Description does double duty in this story, creating a tableau that is both earnestly real and deeply symbolic.

From the narrator’s first descriptions of Pickens, the reader comes to understand that the Chickasaw are a people with inescapable and uneasy relationships to the land and the forces of nature. The livestock carted to the fair slump in the oppressive Oklahoma heat. Biting flies bring back not-too-distant memories of unpleasant days past. White chicken feathers remind the town of the cotton crop that has all but failed them. The air is still in the wake of a recent tornado, and thunderclouds on the horizon threaten to turn the dusty roads to mud. The environment is stagnant but expresses the potential for turmoil. The people of Pickens evidence a similarly paradoxical set of attitudes and emotions. They show the strain of monotony, yet seem poised to experience the chaos that the full-blooded drifter will create. Nature serves as an index for human behavior.

This fusion of physical and psychological elements becomes an important motif as the story progresses. One example of this is the description of the women avoiding Aunt Moon on the street. Hogan sends the gossips scurrying “like swallows swooping into their small clay nests.” The swooping motion conveys the women’s fear of the unique and sometimes powerful Aunt Moon. The small clay nests represent the narrowness of the women’s minds and lives. The narrator employs just this sort of metaphor when she gives Bess Evening a name that corresponds to the many emotional phases that the older woman goes through. Linda Hogan’s skillful use of poetic imagery lends a remarkable depth and texture to “Aunt Moon’s Young Man.”