Style and Technique
Ortiz makes effective use of the first-person point of view in this story. His style is appropriate to the young boy whose experience is the subject, and who, like Ortiz himself, is an Acoma Indian. His diction is simple, his sentences short and clear. However, within these restrictions Ortiz creates subtle and perceptive effects, as in the following passage: “Gilly was pretty silent, and I knew he was either crying or about to. I tried to take a sneak look, but I knew he’d notice and be angry with me, so I didn’t.” The diction in phrases such as “pretty silent” and “take a sneak look” is simple, but the insight that a “man” must ignore the tears of another “man” in order to allow the other to preserve his façade of manliness is deftly presented.
Because much of the meaning of the story lies beyond the limited understanding of the inexperienced narrator, it must be implied. Therefore, Ortiz carefully establishes structural parallels and contrasts to suggest those meanings that lie beyond his narrator’s ability to verbalize. By using such a narrator, Ortiz involves the reader in the process of understanding the events of the narration, and the fact that the characters are Native Americans does not, in this story, constitute any obstacle to that understanding. The characters and events are universal and thereby emphasize commonalities rather than the differences that are often emphasized in fiction by Native American writers.