Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The great technical strength of “The Secret Integration” lies in the story’s seeming simplicity. Although the characters of these children and their friends are sketched out in engaging detail, they lack the self-seriousness and artificiality of the characters in most of Thomas Pynchon’s early works. Although clearly unusual by the standards of realistic fiction, they are still recognizable in behavior and thought as children and as individuals, plotting conspiracies at one moment and splashing in puddles the next.

Similarly, Pynchon’s setting comes alive through his detailed descriptions of the landscape and its past. Combining aspects of his own Long Island home and the Berkshires as described in a regional guide put out in the 1930’s, Pynchon gives a tangible presence to the story’s surroundings. The descriptions of Tim riding a bicycle down a hill, of Mr. McAfee’s hotel room, and of a lavish party hosted a century before in one of the mansions portend Pynchon’s startling re-creation of World War II London in his 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow. (The town of Mingeborough reappears in that book as well, as the boyhood home of the novel’s main character, Tyrone Slothrop, who is the uncle of Hogan Slothrop in “The Secret Integration.”)

As in much of his other fiction, Pynchon makes use of technology and science to provide images and metaphors. Here again, though, he does so more subtly than in such earlier works...

(The entire section is 422 words.)