Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Remarkable for its directness of contact with its subject, “The Moving” is a good example of a well-controlled and tightly compressed story. The first-person child narrator as reporter, common in Still’s work, gives the reader an inquisitive, observant, trustworthy, and nonjudgmental perspective. The use of idiomatic language places the reader on location: Still is true to the culture’s use of compound terms such as “pin-pretty” and “widow-woman”; its manner of using an “a” before a present progressive verb, for example, “a-setting” and “a-wanting”; and its folk terms and expressions, such as “roust” and “pulled a rustie.”

Still, an acclaimed poet, was recognized for his use of exact, lean, concrete language grounded in nature and the practical world, for example, “We waited, restless as the harnessed mare” and “I say as long’s a body has got a rooftree, let him roost under it.” Still’s prose often demands the same attention, and offers the same rewards, as poetry. A single sentence in the story’s first paragraph evinces Still’s use of prose rhythm and metaphoric implication: “They hung over the fence; they crowded where last year’s dogtick stalks clutched their brown leaf-hands into fists.” Here, Still suggests the men’s immobility by the use of the word “hung”; signals that the time of year is fall, the season of death, by the color and state of the leaves; links the leaves to hands, suggestive of the men as hands or laborers, a synecdoche used later in the story; uses the word “fist,” which introduces the crowd’s brutality and foreshadows Sula’s strike with her fist near the end of the story; and juxtaposes the men and the stalks, which are doomed to wither and die where they stand.