Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although an omniscient voice narrates “The Forks,” it is clearly Father Eudex’s story that is being told. J. F. Powers immediately establishes the reader’s sympathy with the curate and follows his thoughts as Monsignor comes and goes. “The Forks” then ends happily insofar as Father Eudex tears up his check in a victory for honesty and goodness.

Nothing fixes Monsignor’s character more vividly than his loving courtship of his sleek car, which is always described with feminine pronouns. Monsignor is “helpless before her beauty”; he cannot “leave her alone”; “he had her out every morning and afternoon and evening”; he devotes “daily rubdowns” to her. On one occasion, as he prepares to drive off, he gives a fender “an amorous chuck” before departing “to see the world, to explore each other further on the honeymoon.”

Low-key dramas in a rectory hardly lead to broad humor, but Powers always spices his stories with wit and irony. As Monsignor pulls away down Clover Boulevard on his “honeymoon,” a respectful cop clears a way for him, “for it was evidently inconceivable to him that Monsignor should ever venture abroad unless to bear the Holy Viaticum, always racing with death.” Again, when he learns of the garden with the fleur-de-lis and the Maltese crosses, “the whole scheme struck Father Eudex as expensive and, in this country, Presbyterian.” One last example, an observation that occurs after Monsignor has lectured Father Eudex on vulgarity and evangelical zeal: “The air of the rectory was often heavy with The Mind of the Church and Taste.” Although these are small jokes and narrow ones at that, they are excellent examples of their type.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Evans, Fallon, comp. J. F. Powers. St. Louis: Herder, 1968.

Gussow, Mel. “J. F. Powers, 81, Dies.” The New York Times, June 17, 1999, p. C23.

Hagopian, John V. J. F. Powers. New York: Twayne, 1968.

Long, J. V. “Clerical Character(s).” Commonweal, May 8, 1998, 11-14.

McInerny, Ralph. “The Darkness of J. F. Powers.” Crisis, March, 1989, 44-46.

Merton, Thomas. “Morte D’Urban: Two Celebrations.” Worship 36 (November, 1962): 645-650.

Meyers, Jeffrey. “J. F. Powers: Uncollected Stories, Essays and Interviews, 1943-1979.” Bulletin of Bibliography 44 (March, 1987): 38-39.

Powers, Katherine A. “Reflections of J. F. Powers: Author, Father, Clear-Eyed Observer.” The Boston Globe, July 18, 1999, p. K4.

Preston, Thomas R. “Christian Folly in the Fiction of J. F. Powers.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 16, no. 2 (1974): 91-107.