Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This is a carefully controlled story, so packed with events similar in their significance that it can truly be said to be “loaded.” There is nothing superfluous to the cumulative impact of Seth’s confronting incongruity and coping with how to integrate the new and mysterious into his understanding of life. Because it is told from the point of view of the adult Seth recalling a memorable day, the language of the story is that of an intelligent and thoughtful adult, one trying to understand something by means of an imaginative reconstruction; in short, it is a tale told by an artist, a miniature portrait of the artist as a young man, making a discovery about the need for sympathetic understanding of other humans that is essential for the artist.

Because the story is both a description of the boy’s day and a conscious effort of the adult to understand it thirty-five years later, the reader must respond to a double perspective: the uncomprehending view of the child and the probing thoughts of the adult. Thus, although the story is told primarily as simple description and narration, it also intersperses expository philosophical passages of the man attempting to understand and explain. The very fact that the story is so firmly directed toward the classic theme and structure of the rite-of-passage initiation story and the fact that it is so loaded with obvious images of death, the unexpected, the incongruous, and the mysterious, indicate that this is an artist’s story, for it is told by a writer who is well aware of the tradition of the initiation story as well as the use of conventional metaphors for death and disruption. The metaphors are handled with such naturalness and confidence, however, that they seem to exist as part of a real and tangible world, even though the reader is aware that this is a highly conventional story.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The New Criticism
Warren’s legacy to literary studies goes far beyond the novels, stories, poems and plays he created. He was...

(The entire section is 605 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

The story is told by a first-person narrator who is recalling events that happened to him sometime in the past. Not...

(The entire section is 488 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Warren's story is presented in a traditional realistic mode of first-person narration. However, the story, which seems, on first reading, to...

(The entire section is 416 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Discussion of "Blackberry Winter" may take several differing approaches. One approach may stress changing social attitudes toward strange...

(The entire section is 639 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

At first glance, "Blackberry Winter" seems to display a very slight weight of social commentary, being primarily concerned with portraying...

(The entire section is 390 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1940s: Workers during the Great Depression are faced with unemployment rates as high as 25% and relief comes through socialistic...

(The entire section is 221 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

What were the lives of tobacco farmers like early in the century? What is likely to happen to the families whose crops are washed away in the...

(The entire section is 129 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Among the main literary precedents for this story of boyhood initiation are Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer (1876; see separate entry) and...

(The entire section is 413 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Some of Warren's poems about his Kentucky boyhood, especially those in Promises (1957) and You, Emperors, and Others (1960), as...

(The entire section is 84 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

All the King’s Men (1946) is Warren’s famous novel about an ambitious political leader. It is funny, exciting, and every bit as...

(The entire section is 93 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Blotner, Joseph. Robert Penn Warren: A Biography, New York: Random House, 1997.

Bohner, Charles....

(The entire section is 233 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Blotner, Joseph. Robert Penn Warren: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1997.

Bohner, Charles. Robert Penn Warren. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1981.

Burt, John. Robert Penn Warren and American Idealism. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988.

Clark, William Bedford, ed. Critical Essays on Robert Penn Warren. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1981.

Grimshaw, James A. Understanding Robert Penn Warren. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

Justus, James H. The Achievement of Robert Penn Warren....

(The entire section is 141 words.)