Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

During the three decades before the appearance of his prizewinning novel No Great Mischief (1999), MacLeod had published only sixteen stories. However, in them he had displayed such a high level of craftsmanship that he was consistently described as one of Canada’s finest fiction writers.

MacLeod’s stylistic dexterity is evident in “As Birds Bring Forth the Sun.” He begins writing as if his story were a folktale. There is an unnamed hero living in an unspecified location. In keeping with the oral tradition, all but one of the sentences in the first paragraph are short and simple; three of them begin with “and,” the connective so often used by storytellers. However, MacLeod soon changes to a more complex and more formal style, with the modifications and afterthoughts that one would expect from a well-educated narrator, switching to simpler sentence patterns only in the action scenes, such as the dog-breeding episode, the savaging of the master, and the murder of the older son. The author moves easily from the realistic depiction of farm life to lyrical descriptions of nature to philosophical musings such as those in the final sentences of the story. Always the style suits the subject, and always the transitions are seamless.

MacLeod is just as deft in his handling of point of view. “As Birds Bring Forth the Sun” is especially interesting in that as the story progresses, the narrative voice keeps changing. At first, the...

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