Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Faulkner deploys more narrative resources in developing his themes than any other American writer. The effect of his stories is a function of his way of telling them; therefore, no summary of action or theme can do them justice.

In “That Evening Sun,” Faulkner uses a retrospective point of view. Quentin, the oldest of the three children, relates events of fifteen years earlier. Between 1915 and 1930, as he observes at the beginning, much has changed in Jefferson, the seat of Faulkner’s mythical Mississippi county. Shade trees have yielded to electric poles and wires, unpaved streets to asphalt, and black women lightly bearing laundry bundles on their heads to black women at the same task in automobiles. Immediately the author establishes the distance between the time of the action and that of the telling. By the absence of any comment on changes in attitudes and by Quentin’s matter-of-fact tone, Faulkner implies the lack of any humane compensations for the loss of the old rhythms of small-town life.

The retrospective method also allows Quentin latitude for necessary exposition of facts that as a child he could not have understood, while at the same time the narrator can attempt to achieve immediacy and vividness by reporting recollections of an experience from his tenth year. When he focuses on the scenes that he witnessed with his brother and sister, Quentin’s narrative becomes childlike in its language and sentence rhythms, as if he is striving to replicate the perceptions of fifteen years ago. Thus Faulkner achieves an unusual blend...

(The entire section is 642 words.)