Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Rivera’s writing style in both his prose and poetry is laconic—he writes in terse, concise sentences. Although he writes very clearly—even plainly—each of his sentences is crafted for maximum effect; one must not mistake his subtlety for lack of skill or craftsmanship. He wants to convey a certain simplicity and frankness that should exist in all lives. For Rivera, the complex codes and dilemmas of modern life obscure the beautiful simplicity of life, and his method of fiction is one way to get past this problem. He tries in his fiction to strive for an authenticity and dignity that are often overshadowed by the cares of the modern world and various cultural hegemonies.

“First Communion” contains powerful images that Rivera employs in the hope that he might cause others to remember their own youth and to search their hearts in order to become more free from the traditions and hatreds that bind them. Perhaps the most powerful images created in the story are those associated with the couple having sex in the tailor shop. He takes pains to describe the window through which the narrator looks, the clothing on which they are lying, how the woman’s hair is “all messed up,” and how she looks sick after the boy “catches” them. The subsequent images of his own parents and their friends are also powerful devices that help Rivera to convey the simultaneously beautiful and brutal workings of this world.