Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Thon’s writing suggests a naturalistic bent that recalls Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893). The characters, although well meaning, are fighting against forces over which they have no control and which will ultimately overwhelm them. Sid stops a woman from hitting her head and is demoted because he drops a tray; he wants to show respect to a cadaver and opts to lift her instead of rolling her, and her three-hundred-pound weight destroys his knee. His father dies because no one happens to notice that he has collapsed while watering the yard. In the emergency room, the good are not more likely to survive than the criminal. The apparent randomness of life contributes to the dark atmosphere of the story.

“First, Body” is presented primarily through Sid’s thoughts. He recollects the events of the emergency room: the holes, a precaution against hemorrhages, that are drilled in the heads of drunks who have passed out and hit the pavement, and the doctor who places bets on the numbers of motorcyclists who will be brought in. However, there is also the other side: the salvaged body parts that will be placed in others, giving them a chance to live, a process Sid terms a “sacrament.” Some of this he would like to tell his mother on his occasional visits, but all she wants to know is that he holds a respectable job.

Sid thinks about his father and wishes that his father had asked him about his experiences in the...

(The entire section is 428 words.)