Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In keeping with Peza’s evolution beyond the tragic self, Stephen Crane employs a self-effacing style. The “author” as an authority over his story becomes submerged within an action whose central interest is the narrative process itself, the visible rendering of change. Consequently, there is no clearly identifiable point of view, no self-conscious first-person narrative or authorial omniscience. The narrator, as inextricably involved in his narrating as the child’s image is symbolically united with the elemental powers of nature, becomes simply the shifting visual perspective through which events rise into view, run their course, and issue into new events.

An important instance of the narrative’s shifting visual perspective occurs when the child weeps. First, the narrator shows the scene from the child’s vantage point: “The child took seat on a stone, and contemplated the fight. He was beginning to be astonished. . . . Lines of flame flashed out here and there. It was mystery.” Then, he renders the same moment from the correlative perspective: “If the men struggling on the plain had had time, and greater vision, they could have seen this strange, tiny figure seated on a boulder, surveying them while the tears streamed.”

The “symbolic” value of the child, so central in Peza’s evolution, originates precisely in this imaginative shift in perspective. Moreover, the author’s self-effacing narrative generates the moral equivalent in style of the impersonal natural forces that impel Peza into his venture, that operate within the war, and that illuminate the child’s image.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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