Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Gardner uses the third-person, limited omniscient point of view, presenting the story through Jack’s consciousness, because it is Jack who must come to terms with his recurring memories of David’s death. In line with this, the story circles back to the death scene three times. Initially, Jack recalls his sister’s scream, sees the wheels of the cultipacker reach his brother’s pelvis, and watches blood pour from David’s mouth. The second return is vaguer, without specific details, indicating Jack’s attempt to repress the memory. His whole body flinches from the image. The third memory includes details omitted from the first and second: “And now, from nowhere, the black memory of his brother’s death rushed over him again, mindless and inexorable as a wind or wave, the huge cultipacker lifting—only an inch or so—as it climbed toward the shoulders, then sank on the skull—and he heard . . . his sister’s scream.”

This sentence is a good example of Gardner’s style. He recreates the accident in language. Beginning the sentence abruptly with “and” mirrors the shock of the memory coming without warning. By interrupting the main clause with phrases, Gardner slows and lengthens the sentence, creating a slow-motion effect, the way Jack sees it in his mind. The phrase “only an inch or so,” enclosed in dashes, is an impediment in the sentence, as David’s shoulders are to the cultipacker. The phrases “climbed toward the...

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