Style and Technique
The understanding, loving, and forgiving values in Byers’s story are hard to resist, but they are also hard to present without either irony or sentimentality. Byers manages to avoid both, giving the reader characters who are neither perfect nor petulant, neither ironically bitter nor blissfully ignorant, but rather who are complex and believable human beings, simply doing their best, which, Byers seems to suggest, is simply the most human thing anyone can do.
Byers was only in his late twenties when his first collection of stories was published, but critics were so impressed with the technical accomplishment of his stories that they felt it would be patronizing to call him promising, for he had already arrived. He was highly praised for his ability to portray older adults and small children with convincing detail and to reveal character through carefully controlled dialogue.
The secret to the appeal and success of “Settled on the Cranberry Coast” is the straightforward, likable voice of the central character and narrator Eddie. He is presented as a man who makes no apologies for his life, does not complain, is proud of his work, and is straightforward in his dealings with others. Eddie is understanding and nonjudgmental. When one of his colleagues, a math teacher named Jack Patani, marries one of his students, Eddie says that because the girl adored him, gave him good conversation and a nice young body, “it’s hard to argue with that.” At the end of the story, when Eddie takes Rosie’s granddaughter with him to pick up the radiators, he thinks of what Patani had told him, that he had married his student to give himself a few more good times. Eddie thinks the couple is...
(The entire section is 443 words.)