Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Neither a rigorous naturalist such as Émile Zola nor an avant-garde experimentalist such as James Joyce, O’Connor strived for a style that captured what he called the “glowing center of action.” In a voice that is candid, straightforward, terse, and colloquial, he puts before his audience the central facts and the telling details; he points to a theme that is clear, simple, and universal. Unwilling to call attention to itself, O’Connor’s style seems almost transparent, yet the simple phrases can turn suddenly to eloquence, as in Larry’s description of his father, “He had long months of abstinence behind him and an eternity of pleasure before,” or the words can turn to salt, as when Larry notes his father’s “pleasant awareness that however much he would miss poor Mr. Dooley in the long summer evenings, it was he and not poor Mr. Dooley who would do the missing.”

One outstanding feature of O’Connor as a storyteller is his ability to recapture the feel of childhood. He does not comment on what a child feels; he records it. Again and again he notes the child’s earnestness, literalness, and befuddlement in trying to make sense of what adults say. When Larry vomits, his father says, encouragingly, “You’ll be grand when you get that up.” However, Larry notes, “Begor, I was not grand! Grand was the last thing I was.” When another man similarly states, “You’ll be all right in a minute,” the boy bewilderedly comments, “I...

(The entire section is 435 words.)