Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Clark’s work reflects unusual mastery over poetic voice, careful attention to the details of narration, and, above all, an ear finely attuned to the nuances of language. Clark takes a risk telling his tale from the hawk’s point of view. Although the narrative voice gains an intimacy otherwise unavailable, he runs the risk of sentimentality. Clark skillfully avoids obvious anthropomorphism by confining Hook’s reactions to relatively primordial emotions such as rage, fear, and triumph and carefully maintaining a disinterested narrative tone.

Although not a biologist, Clark is a keen observer of nature, and in depicting Hook, he depicts the hawk as he understands the behavior of raptors. By carefully recording the events of Hook’s life with seeming detachment, the narrative voice appears distanced and disinterested. From the first sentence, “Hook, the hawk’s child, was hatched in a dry spring among the oaks beside the seasonal river, and was struck from the nest early,” the tone appears to be matter-of-fact. There is a fine deception in this presumption, for Clark selects and arranges the details brought before the eye. Nowhere is the deceptively flat narrative voice more economically powerful than in the closing description of the dead hawk: “Between the great sails the light body lay caved and perfectly still.” This single sentence provides a summation of themes. The great sails suggest the hawk’s majesty, and the light body suggests the delicate fragility of hollow bird bones. Hook lies in perfect stillness, in perfection not to be reawakened. Clearly the poetic power of the narration is not detached, for it inspires both pity and fear. With this sentence, Clark has awakened a terrible sense of loss, of pity not only for the bird but also for its destroyer and ultimately for the human condition.