In Darkness and Confusion Analysis

Ann Petry

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In showing the devastating effects of poverty on the lives of individuals, Petry employs a third-person point of view, setting William Jones at the center of the narrative and filtering all the incidents of the story through his consciousness. This gives the story a sense of immediacy by allowing the reader to experience events firsthand. The reader relives all of William’s fears and frustrations: fear for his wife’s physical health and for his son’s emotional well-being, as well his frustrations at being trapped in the stultifying ghetto environment. The reader walks beside him as he makes his way to work in a dead-end job, and as he operates on the fringes of a world to which he can never really belong.

In following William throughout the weekend, sharing his past disappointments and disillusionments as well as his hopes and dreams, the reader is better able to understand how the tremendous buildup of tension can result in riot. In looking through the eyes of the protagonist, one can see how an entire community might be overwhelmed by circumstances and finally driven to commit unspeakable acts of violence.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bell, Bernard. “Ann Petry’s Demythologizing of American Culture and Afro-American Character.” In Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition, edited by Marjorie Pryse and Hortense J. Spillers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Clark, Keith. “A Distaff Dream Deferred? Ann Petry and the Art of Subversion.” African-American Review 26 (Fall, 1992): 495-505.

Ervin, Hazel Arnett, and Hilary Holladay, eds. Ann Petry’s Short Fiction: Critical Essays. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2004.

Gross, Theodore. “Ann Petry: The Novelist as Social Critic.” In Black Fiction: New Studies in the Afro-American Novel Since 1945, edited by A. Robert Lee. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1980.

Hernton, Calvin. “The Significance of Ann Petry.” In The Sexual Mountain and Black Women Writers. New York: Doubleday, 1987.

Holladay, Hilary. Ann Petry. New York: Twayne, 1996.

Petry, Ann. “A MELUS Interview: Ann Petry—The New England Connection.” Interview by Mark Wilson. MELUS 15 (Summer, 1988): 71-84.

Washington, Gladys. “A World Made Cunningly: A Closer Look at Ann Petry’s Short Fiction.” College Language Association Journal 30 (September, 1986): 14-29.