Style and Technique
Meriwether’s fictional technique has two distinguishing characteristics. The more apparent is Francie’s first-person narration, which is realistic and clever and hardly ever calls attention to itself. From her opening encounter with her neighbor Mrs. Mackey (“Lord, I thought, don’t let Mrs. Mackey stand here with her big, black self telling me about her dreams”), through her description of her father’s hurt pride and anger at welfare, to her final blasphemy (“Goddamn them all to hell”), Francie’s narration comes by way of the authentic voice of a preadolescent girl struggling against the odds of survival in this all-too-real world. Much of the story’s power comes from the uninflected but absolutely honest character revealed through that voice.
The broader characteristic of Meriwether’s story is its naturalistic style. In detail as in language, the author reveals the ways in which these characters are trapped, not only by socioeconomic factors but by the psychological as well. Naturalism works best in a style that is flat and uninterpretative, which is why Francie’s first-person narrative voice works so well. From the vomit-green kitchen walls inside her apartment to the violence of Harlem outside, “Daddy Was a Number Runner” is steeped in the naturalistic tradition of writers such as Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Paule Marshall.