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...

(The entire section is 517 words.)

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Post-War World
John Gardner, born during the Great Depression, reached adolescence in the years immediately following World War...

(The entire section is 551 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Several images recur throughout ‘‘Redemption.’’ Skulls, for example, appear three times to remind Jack of...

(The entire section is 540 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1940s: Many families live on farms, providing food and dairy products for the nation. Farmers were excused from the draft because they...

(The entire section is 311 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Investigate the number of farm accidents involving children in the 1940s and in the 1990s. What has happened to the number of reported...

(The entire section is 107 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Grendel (1971) is perhaps Gardner's most famous novel. The story is a retelling of the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf, from the...

(The entire section is 84 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Allen, Bruce. ‘‘From Gardner, Short Stories Dimmed by Abstractions,’’ in The Christian Science Monitor,...

(The entire section is 236 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Henderson, Jeff. John Gardner: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1990.

Henderson, Jeff, ed. Thor’s Hammer: Essays on John Gardner. Conway: University of Central Arkansas Press, 1985.

Howell, John M. John Gardner: A Bibliographical Profile. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980.

Howell, John M. Understanding John Gardner. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

Morace, Robert A. John Gardner: An Annotated Secondary Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1984.

Morace, Robert A., and Kathryn Van Spanckeren, eds. John Gardner: Critical Perspectives. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982.

Morris, Gregory L. A World of Order and Light: The Fiction of John Gardner. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984.

Silesky, Barry. John Gardner: Literary Outlaw. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2004.

Thornton, Susan. On Broken Glass: Loving and Losing John Gardner. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000.

Winther, Per. The Art of John Gardner: Instruction and Exploration. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.