Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Aichinger’s use of landscape parallels the evolution of human beings and suggests the passage of time. When the bound man awakens at the beginning of the story, he is outside under a flowering elder bush. He feels compelled to head for the nearest village. Later, as a member of the circus, he moves from village to village, and these are located along a river. He is thus symbolically following the course of civilization.

The scene in which he is completely at one with nature, in which he kills the wolf as one animal kills another, is set in the woods. He feels “tenderness for an equal, for the erect one in the crouching one,” and nature personified approves of his action: “He could feel the softness of the withered leaves stroking the back of his hand.”

Once the bonds are cut he does not return to the woods but to the river. Time flows on. There is no going back. Aichinger’s sadness at this realization is reflected in her use of the seasons. At the beginning of the story it is spring. The sun is getting stronger and making life outdoors possible. All summer long, the circus draws record crowds. Then autumn comes. Not only has summer run its course, so too has the popularity of the bound man. Preparing for winter, the spectators are no longer attracted by natural man. After he shoots the second wolf for them, it is winter, with ice floes on the water and snow, “which removes all memory.” Humankind has entered an unhappy age of...

(The entire section is 418 words.)