Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

William Saroyan’s use of the third-person point of view enables him to penetrate the mind of his main character, Al, and also to follow Al’s mother on her daily routine. The narrative focuses on the boy’s consciousness for the first seven pages, shifts to the mother, and then returns to the boy in the last two pages. A chronological sequence of events conveys to the reader the boy’s wanderings, until the narrative switches to his mother’s work, packing figs at Inderrieden. When Leeza leaves, the narrative presents a scene, analogous to the early scene with Al being questioned by the manager, Mr. Clemmer, in which Al recounts to his mother his productivity as a worker and his rejection of being reduced to money (exchange-value). In effect, Al tells the only sympathetic listener in his life the story of his growing up: his moral crisis and attempted resolution.

The reader is brought into the story not only by the structuring of the episodes and the use of the enticingly naïve but sensitive character of Al but also by the economy and restraint of Saroyan’s style. As Saroyan confessed in “The Writer on Writing,” the words of this story “only imply the real story.”

Saroyan’s diction and syntax appear deceptively simple and spare, reflecting the speech of the eleven-year-old boy and the immigrant mother. The narrative reproduces the broken English of the mother, contrasting with the law-encoded grammar and idiom of mainstream...

(The entire section is 592 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Balakian, Nona. The World of William Saroyan. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1998.

Calonne, David Stephen. William Saroyan: My Real Work Is Being. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983.

Floan, Howard R. William Saroyan. New York: Twayne, 1966.

Foard, Elisabeth C. William Saroyan: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1989.

Foster, Edward Halsey. William Saroyan. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1984.

Foster, Edward Halsey. William Saroyan: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1991.

Hamalian, Leo, ed. William Saroyan: The Man and Writer Remembered. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1987.

Haslam, Gerald W. “William Saroyan.” In A Literary History of the American West, edited by Thomas J. Lyon et al. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1987.

Keyishian, Harry, ed. Critical Essays on William Saroyan. New York: G. K. Hall, 1995.

Lee, Lawrence, and Barry Gifford. Saroyan: A Biography. 1984. Reprint. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Leggett, John. A Daring Young Man: A Biography of William Saroyan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Saroyan, Aram. William Saroyan. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983.

Whitmore, Jon. William Saroyan: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.