Style and Technique
The poetic style of “Everything in This Country Must” is typical of McCann’s fiction. The impressionistic nature of the first-person narrative gives the reader insight not only into the events of the story but also into the imagination, hopes, and dreams of the narrator. Much of her narration focuses on straightforward sensory information about sight, sounds, and sensations. Occasionally, however, an extremely poetic metaphor or simile lifts the narrative far beyond the mundane reality being depicted.
Rather than being a linear rendering of historical events, the story’s chronology reflects the narrator’s growing understanding of the psychological significance of the events as they affect her father. Although she mentions Mammy and Fiachra early on, the story of the accident that killed them both is not spelled out until much later in the narrative. Consequently, the sensitive reader notices the signals that suggest that there is more to the story than meets the eye and begins to reconstruct the story of the accident that changed the family. The narrator’s refusal to give a direct account of the two events with the most dramatic potential—the rescue of the horse from the river and the shooting of the horse in the barn at the story’s end—suggests that the events have significance only in how they affect those who perceive them.
Another notable feature of the story is McCann’s use of dialect. The rural Northern Ireland dialect of this story is rendered carefully and subtly. The dialect is discernable not in nonstandard spellings and dropped consonants, but rather in the cadence and syntax of the characters’ speech (and of course the first-person narration). The English dialect of the soldiers is easily identified because it stands out from the local dialect that surrounds it. This just one more way McCann reinforces the subtle web of tensions that connects everyone in the story.