Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The names May and Greenleaf, both suggestive of springtime, the symbolic dreams, and especially the suggestive imagery and diction used in the confrontations between Mrs. May and the bull, give this sardonic tale a cast of archetypal myth. In the initial scene, the bull stands in the moonlight under her window “like some patient god come down to woo her.” He has ripped loose some of the hedge, which encircles his horns, presumably making him even more like a garlanded Dionysus in his bull form. Later he is likened to “an uncouth country suitor.” Moreover, Mrs. May’s first words are addressed to the bull in curiously anthropomorphic terms: “Get away from here, Sir!” Before the disappointed lover leaves, he has shaken his head so that the vines have slipped down to the base of the horns, now looking like a “menacing prickly crown,” suggesting perhaps the sacrificial role that she imposes on him.

When he comes again to her window, her dream is more menacing; the noise of the bull becomes associated with the sun, which burns through the trees and races toward her. Is the reader to remember the ancient pairing of the sun bull with the moon cow? When Mrs. May wakes and looks out the window, however, she sees the bull only as an “iron shadow,” a suggestive echo of the “iron hand” with which she attempted to fight the forces of nature and Greenleaf.

In the last scene, the bull, rejected twice in his nocturnal visits, emerges...

(The entire section is 431 words.)