Style and Technique
Bambara uses a first-person narrator to show the neighborhood through the eyes of a child. Use of the present tense creates a sense of immediacy. Bambara’s choice of words, sentence structure, and manner of expression are all simple. Of the thirteen sentences that make up the first two paragraphs, six begin with “and” and three begin with “but.” The result is a colloquial style appropriate for the young narrator. The young characters speak in the language of the playground with all its vitality and humor. The children banter and exchange insults, referring to other children as “Fatso,” “her freckle-face self,” or “Mary Louise Williams of Raggedy Town, Baltimore,” and call Mr. Pearson “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Bambara paints her characters with a few deft strokes. Squeaky’s father is described as a “thirty-five-year-old man stuffing himself into a PAL pair of shorts” to race his daughter down Amsterdam Avenue. He gives her a “two-hydrant head start” and runs “with his hands in his pockets and whistling.” Cynthia clutches “the lace on her blouse like it was a narrow escape.” Mr. Pearson, with his clipboard, cards, and whistles, is both a symbol of authority and an object of ridicule. Bambara speaks of the “high standards our community has regarding verbal performance.” Surely, the language of “Raymond’s Run” meets those standards.
Bibliography and Further Reading
Alwes, Derek. “The Burden of Liberty: Choice in Toni Morrison’s Jazz and Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters.” African American Review 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1996): 353-365.
Bone, Martyn. “Capitalist Abstraction and the Body Politics of Place in Toni Cade Bambara’s Those Bones Are Not My Child.” Journal of American Studies 37, no. 2 (August, 2003): 229-246.
Butler-Evans, Elliott. Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.
Collins, Janelle. “Generating Power: Fission, Fusion, and Post Modern Politics in Bambara’s The Salt Eaters.” MELUS 21, no. 2 (Summer, 1996): 35-47.
Heller, Janet Ruth. “Toni Cade Bambara’s Use of African American Vernacular English in ’The Lesson.’” Style 37, no. 3 (Fall, 2003): 279-293.
Kelley, Margot A. “’Damballah Is the First Law of Thermodynamics’: Modes of Access to Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters.” African American Review 27, no. 3 (Fall, 1993): 479-493.
Muther, Elizabeth. “Bambara’s Feisty Girls: Resistance Narratives in Gorilla, My Love.” African American Review 36, no. 3 (Fall, 2002): 447-459.