Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “The Cyclists’ Raid,” Rooney demonstrates his clear, crisp style. A master of detail, he creates with precise words and penetrating observation of physical details the story’s landscape. His major characters come to life through the details that the reader quickly learns about them. Joel Bleeker—who was successful enough as a leader to become a lieutenant colonel—is methodical and controlled, checking the clock in his lobby at the same time daily against his more accurate railroad watch. No unusual occurrence, even the noisy approach of the motorcyclists, deters him from this established ritual.

Rooney demonstrates that Bleeker has laid to rest two major ghosts. First he has escaped from the dangers of World War II. He has also survived and moved beyond the loss of a wife who was precious to him. His love and concern for his daughter have been heightened by his wife’s death.

Gar Simpson possesses the same sort of leadership ability that Bleeker does but to a greater degree. Rooney consistently portrays him as methodical and meticulous. He knows the names of the hotels in the town as well as the names of their owners. He has planned the trip with the precision of a military operation.

Rooney’s introduction of the maverick motorcyclist is particularly cogent. It lends itself to the eventual denouement of the story. In his budding individuality, this sympathetic character shows courage and provides readers with hope. That the townspeople turn on him in giving vent to their outrage about Cathy’s death is understandable. Bleeker’s protection of the pummeled boy, however, reflects a dimension in his personality that, despite surface similarities, makes him inherently different from Gar Simpson.