Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Much of the story’s energy emanates from the subjective narrative point of view. Because the reader learns everything from Jackie’s viewpoint, one is naturally sympathetic with his observations, even though many of those are immature and self-serving. One would also expect that the story’s prose would be quite immature and unsophisticated; however, the tale reveals sophisticated stylistic effort. To add depth and texture, O’Connor often weaves in language and observations that are not typical of an ordinary child, although a precocious youngster might conceivably express himself in such a manner.

Jackie twice describes himself as “heart-scalded” because of his misfortunes, and, after falling out of the confessional, he despairs, “I knew then I was lost, given up to eternal justice.” These are clearly not phrases most seven-year-olds might use, yet they graphically express the emotions of such a child. On the other hand, Jackie’s fascination with the details of hanging as punishment and his mortification over his grandmother’s rustic ways are certainly the reactions of an immature character.

The tone of the piece is relaxed and conversational; the effect is that of a person sitting before the reader recounting a particularly traumatic event that has made a deep personal impression. O’Connor always was disdainful of modernist writers such as James Joyce and what he regarded as their effete, willfully obscure language. The...

(The entire section is 406 words.)