Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Perhaps more than any of Benedict’s other stories, “Miracle Boy” pays homage to the vast southern literary talent that informs modern-day writers. Like Flannery O’Connor, Benedict uses a terse, deceptively simple prose, displays a keen ear for southern dialect, and portrays violent, grotesque, and bizarre characters.

The world in which “Miracle Boy” is set is full of elements that are familiar and natural and yet take on a suspenseful and at times ominous feel. For example, having left the reader with the powerful image of the young disabled boy violated by his peers, Benedict turns to the first of three important flashbacks, to the moment when the tragic accident happened. He captures the infinite possibilities for human persecution by momentarily implicating the father as the cause of the boy’s accident. Benedict’s style of presenting “the facts” carries an emotional punch that effectively keeps the reader on guard throughout the story’s telling. Whom does a person trust? Who is not capable of hurt and betrayal? Who has not sinned?

The second flashback effectively uses the present tense, for the only time in the story, to highlight the moment preceding the accident, the time before the boy is Miracle Boy. Benedict brings the reader even more into this moment by placing the action on a crisp fall afternoon and describing how Miracle Boy soon will be bird-dogging whitewings out of the stubble of the field. The reader is there with him and can effectively know the life he would have known with his father. The pair plan to drop a salt lick and wait together to shoot the deer that comes to the salt. In fact, the reader knows that they will not be able to do this. This is the life the farming accident has prevented the young boy from pursuing. However, according to Miracle Boy, this is the life before Jesus made him walk again. Although Miracle Boy does not lend a nostalgic tone to his life before the accident, Benedict’s use of the present and immediate tense brings a fullness to the boy’s loss and makes his courage in light of such events all the more miraculous.