Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The chief stylistic device at work is Connell’s use, as the major structural pattern, of a variation on the descent into Hell common in epic literature. The journey takes place without the formal guide characteristic of some of the epic models, but Muhlbach’s frequent quotations from the Confessions serve to cast Saint Augustine in that role. It is appropriate, therefore, in the light of his guide’s long service in Africa, that Muhlbach goes to Club Sahara. It also makes sense that Rouge’s name evokes the fires of Hell, that the taxi driver taking him away from Greenwich Village looks like an angelic messenger, and that the bird that brings the message of truth to Muhlbach is a pigeon or dove. Connell’s details allow for a fairly thorough allegorical reading.

Nevertheless, as the limited third-person narrator makes clear, it is Muhlbach who sees the trip into New York City in these terms. He is the one, not Connell or the narrator, making these associations, for the journey occurs as much in his consciousness as in the actual city. As a result, the conclusions that Muhlbach reaches about himself at the end of the story seem to develop out of his personality and the situation rather than being imposed on him by the narrator or the author.