Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Steinbeck explores the story’s themes using a third-person point of view that focuses on the consciousness of Pepe during his ordeal in the mountains. The author achieves a poetic grace with plain language that is appropriate to the thought processes of his protagonist. Contained in that language is the sharp detail of the physical landscape, which has a beauty of its own. Steinbeck also uses the detail of the physical landscape to suggest Pepe’s inner emotions. For example, in the scene before his death, Pepe sees that “strewn over the hill there were giant outcroppings, and on the top the granite teeth stood out against the sky.” The stark image of the “granite teeth” works to reflect the emotion that Pepe feels; trapped in his fate, he senses powers that will overwhelm and “devour” him. The images of the landscape provide a backdrop for his final act of defiance, of standing up to be shot down.

The dialogue early in the story between Pepe and members of his family is filled with short, declarative statements and the use of “thy” and “thou,” which gives it a stilted quality. By such devices, Steinbeck—rather like Ernest Hemingway in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)—was attempting, unsuccessfully, to convey the archaic dignity of his characters’ speech.

Steinbeck’s technique and style are appropriate to his subject: Pepe’s direct, uncomplicated emotions are presented without authorial comment, being placed directly before the reader with a simple honesty that gives this story both power and poignancy.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

California Geography
Steinbeck's "Flight'' is set on the mid-California coast about fifteen miles south of Monterey...

(The entire section is 568 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Narrator and Point of View
"Flight" is told from a third-person point of view. The narrator, the person telling the...

(The entire section is 993 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1930s: Many street gangs that arose during the 1920s in order to take advantage of Prohibition move on to other illegal...

(The entire section is 305 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Based on what Mama Torres says to Pepe in the story, what do you think she believes about his level of maturity at the beginning of the...

(The entire section is 172 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

"Flight" was adapted as a film by Barnaby Conrad, starring Efram Ramirez and Ester Cortez and produced by Columbia Pictures in 1960.

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What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

The Red Pony, also by Steinbeck, was first published in 1937 and revised in 1945. It is the story of a boy's...

(The entire section is 326 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Sources
Antico, John "A Reading of Steinbeck's 'Flight'," in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol 11, Spring, 1965, pp...

(The entire section is 257 words.)

Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Astro, Richard. John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts: The Shaping of a Novelist. Hemet, Calif.: Western Flyer, 2002.

Benson, Jackson D. The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer. New York: Viking Press, 1984.

French, Warren. John Steinbeck’s Fiction Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1994.

George, Stephen K., ed. John Steinbeck: A Centennial Tribute. New York: Praeger, 2002.

George, Stephen K., ed. The Moral Philosophy of John Steinbeck. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005.

Hayashi, Tetsumaro, ed. A New Study Guide to Steinbeck’s Major Works, with Critical Explications. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1993.

Hughes, R. S. John Steinbeck: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1989.

Johnson, Claudia Durst, ed. Understanding “Of Mice and Men,” “The Red Pony,” and “The Pearl”: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997.

McElrath, Joseph R., Jr., Jesse S. Crisler, and Susan Shillinglaw, eds. John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Parini, Jay. John Steinbeck: A Biography. New York: Henry Holt, 1995.

Shillinglaw, Susan, and Kevin Hearle, eds. Beyond Boundaries: Rereading John Steinbeck. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002.

Tamm, Eric Enno. Beyond the Outer Shores: The Untold Odyssey of Ed Ricketts, the Pioneering Ecologist Who Inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2004.

Timmerman, John H. The Dramatic Landscape of Steinbeck’s Short Stories. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.