Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Faces of Blood Kindred,” in spite of being fairly specifically located in time and space, has a mythic quality. The quiet voice of the omniscient narrator, the namelessness of the “cousin,” the phrase “blood kindred,” and the “unnamed” city, all serve to give this story a universal dimension. The experiences of the cousin speak to all people who have questioned the unfairness of life and striven to help their fellowmen.

One of Goyen’s characteristic techniques is evident in this tale. Although he focuses on particular figures, here James and the cousin, Goyen makes one aware of the rich texture of life around these central figures that both frames and shapes them. It is as if there were a baroque symphony playing quietly in the background and a romantic concerto based on the same basic themes and motifs playing in the foreground. The music is communal, even universal; the symphony never ceases though particular melodies may fade into silence.

Many of Goyen’s stories, like “The Faces of Blood Kindred,” do not conclude in a conventional sense; they simply end. Like music, they are not quite understandable. One is left with a sense of melancholy, perhaps a sense of longing. Goyen does not believe in simple and complete resolutions. The cousin faces deeper and more perplexing questions at the close of the story than he did as a child.