Style and Technique
“Rose-Johnny” is a realistic account of prejudice in the South. The setting is rural Kentucky; the people are simple farmers and shopkeepers. Because the narration is not condescending and the reader feels on an intellectual par with the principal characters, the story seems to be universal, not confined to the American South. Kingsolver uses simple, unambiguous language to communicate her message.
The use of an eleven-year-old girl as storyteller enables the reader to look through innocent eyes at the hatred and prejudice of the southern town. Telling the story from a child’s perspective puts the reader in the mind of the child. Early in the story, the reader may even feel protective toward the young narrator. The device of making Rose-Johnny sexually ambiguous has its effect. What if Rose-Johnny is a pervert who will harm Georgeann? As Rose-Johnny’s character is revealed, however, the reader’s fears dissipate. When Rose-Johnny is seen as an ordinary person, and the ugly tale of the real reason for the town’s hatred is revealed, the reader may feel a sense of moral superiority.
Georgeann comes of age in the story. It is significant that she is eleven at the story’s close, near the age of the traditional child-to-adult rite of passage. The child becomes the mother at the end, renaming her doll Rose-Johnny and taking on the burden Rose-Johnny left behind: fighting prejudice and bigotry.