Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

How can the lifetime of any individual be encapsulated and dramatically presented in a brief short story? In “Bontsha the Silent,” Peretz has demonstrated his skills at creating tense dramatic plot by constructing events in cyclic, repeating episodes that accomplish the desired effect of deepening the character’s personality while also leaving him to represent the plight of all downtrodden people.

The first cycle constitutes the story’s opening, wherein the narrative recounts—briefly and with few embellishing details—the plight and travails of the protagonist in a reverse order, moving backward from his death and returning to the circumstances of the very disappearance of his grave marker.

Peretz then shifts to ironic contrast as all in Heaven are excited at the news of Bontsha’s imminent arrival. Irony is indeed the most outstanding device used by the author to lend his story the dramatic force and poignancy so necessary in a satire. Also notable is the manner in which Peretz gradually silences the prosecuting angel’s objections; this permits the uninterrupted flow of the defending angel’s account to envelop the reader completely.

The episode of the trial provides the occasion for the second biographical cycle, wherein the defending angel shocks the reader with more explicit details of the cruelty encountered by Bontsha during his life time. Even more so in this instance, the author expresses his strong views concerning the injustices still going on in a world proudly calling itself modern and progressive.