Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Miss Cynthie” is a prime example of the stylistic economy that earned for Fisher the admiration of his contemporaries during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. Its tightly controlled plot, dynamic presentation of character, and deft use of literary devices are all evidence of the consummate artist at work. For example, the reader is intrigued by the way that Fisher develops the mystery surrounding the nature of Dave Tappen’s employment. Miss Cynthie’s expressed hopes for her grandson, the redcap’s suggestive response, Dave’s obvious wealth, and Miss Cynthie’s distrust of the theater all contribute to the developing notion that Miss Cynthie will not be amused with her grandson’s vocation.

Another element of style is the warm, good-natured humor that abounds—from Miss Cynthie’s early insistence on carrying her umbrella to ward off snakes, even in the city, to the final scene that shows her tapping her foot and singing to the tune of the song she had taught her grandson as a child. Fisher’s tone, while focusing on ways and manners of the folk, is neither condescending nor mean-spirited; rather, it is a tone of wonderment and appreciation—hallmarks of vintage Rudolph Fisher.