Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story is told in a straightforward manner by an omniscient narrator who refuses to judge Rodney or his hip white friends. Rodney’s own behavior and pathetic-comic efforts to be culturally black, in spite of the fact that he is racially black, are sufficient for the reader to make his or her own judgment. The story is a combination of sly comic satire and serious social criticism. Although no background exposition is provided to explain how Rodney is the way he is, it seems clear that McPherson is trying to draw the reader’s attention to the dilemma of the young black male caught in between two worlds.

Although Rodney is presented as a ridiculous figure, there is also something very sad about his dilemma. The story reverses the usual black “outsider” theme with a satiric style that makes it possible to laugh at Rodney, but it does not negate the seriousness of the fact that Rodney is forever caught in a no-win situation of trying to be both white and black at the same time. It is perhaps an indication of growing social awareness that McPherson can write such a story that is less angry than it is characterized by a complex mixture of comedy and pathos. At least the so-called black social problem has been so internalized that black writers such as McPherson can feel comfortable playing with it in a comic and satiric manner.