Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

William Faulkner has woven into “Red Leaves” two stories carefully unified into one. The first is a humorous narrative of Indians honoring an outdated ritual. The treating of such serious matters as the poisoning of chiefs and the burying of men who, at least for the moment, are still alive, would suggest a lofty, solemn tone. Faulkner indeed assumes such a tone in the lofty diction of the Indians, a style suggestive of the King James Bible, and in the dutiful manner in which Basket and Berry carry out their responsibilities. However, the underlying tone is ironic: What the Indians say is not in harmony with the way they say it. Frequent references to the incongruities in the lives and persons of the three chiefs contribute to this undertone. The fact that none of them is a full-blooded Chickasaw, that the newest chief is half black but no more than one-eighth Chickasaw, raises doubts as to the legitimacy of the succession. The strong suggestions of royal poisonings confirm such suspicions. The use of a deteriorated steamboat for a palace and ill-fitting slippers for a crown reinforce the opinion that these are not legitimate chiefs; yet their credentials are impressive enough to qualify them for a dog, a horse, and a servant in the Happy Hunting Grounds. The ambiguous attitude toward the keeping of black slaves also suggests humor and irony.

The other story, the wilderness tale of a runaway slave being pursued by his Indian masters so that he can...

(The entire section is 430 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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