Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrative moves with admirable clarity and economy. It opens with the exquisitely detailed account of Christian’s run and immediately shifts to his appearance on the field fifteen years later. The detailed account has been a feat of his memory. The narrative then moves chronologically, essentially from Christian’s point of view, ending with his re-creation of the earlier run.

Irwin Shaw’s style is marked by vivid, energetic description that relies heavily on verbs, verb forms (largely participles), and absolute constructions (largely nominative absolutes). The technique is reminiscent of the styles of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. The following passage illustrates the technique well: “Darling tucked the ball in, spurted at him, driving hard, hurling himself along, his legs pounding, knees high, all two hundred pounds bunched into controlled attack.” In the passage the verbs and verbals bear the weight of meaning and create the impression of movement and energy. The stylistic technique is especially effective when a writer is describing a developing or ongoing action. It permits Shaw to craft lengthy sentences that are carefully controlled and balanced.