Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Caldwell’s “Kneel to the Rising Sun” employs several important literary techniques, including the third-person focus on the consciousness of Lonnie, whose psychological struggles are Caldwell’s primary concern. A technique that enhances this psychological portrait is Caldwell’s use of hyperbole, particularly as to the sharpness or leanness of Lonnie’s face. Clem Henry says to Lonnie that any sharecropper who stays with Arch Gunnard long enough would have a face so sharp as to split boards for a coffin, and Lonnie’s consciousness repeatedly returns to this idea. After Arch kills Lonnie’s dog and the sharecropper fails to ask for more rations, he rubs his chin and feels the exposed jawbones and tendons. Again, after Arch and the others leave, the defeated Lonnie feels his pointed chin hurting his chest. This latter hyperbole, particularly, conveys Lonnie’s lack of pride and manhood, in his inability to hold his head erect after his dog (and symbolically he and his family) is mutilated by Arch Gunnard. The mutilation theme is repeated when Arch’s hogs kill and partially eat Lonnie’s father, symbolizing the greed of southern plantation owners who devour their sharecroppers.

Another technique in generating the naturalistic powerlessness and psychological pessimism of the story is Caldwell’s use of similes that dehumanize and desensitize by association. For example, Arch Gunnard uses the dog’s tail as a razor strap, seeming to sharpen...

(The entire section is 456 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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