Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

One of the most interesting aspects of technique in this story is Welty’s use of first-person narration. Mrs. Rainey draws the reader directly into the story, requiring that one imagine oneself a stranger passing through town and, somehow, finding oneself in Mrs. Rainey’s dairy. Like many of Welty’s first-person narrators, Mrs. Rainey is not very careful to remember her listener’s ignorance of town affairs. As a consequence, Mr. Rainey repeatedly runs ahead of her story and must go back to fill in details. “Shower of Gold,” like “Why I Live at the P.O.” and “Petrified Man,” requires the reader to make careful and sometimes complex inferences in order to follow the narration successfully. Finally, however, all the pieces are given, even if their order seems idiosyncratic. Welty is a master of this sort of narration, which gives so convincing an illusion of hearing the actual voice of a speaking character. Reading this story is at first like plunging into an alien world, but as the reader rereads and contemplates the narration, that world becomes increasingly familiar, convincing, and rich.

Another effect of this mode of narration is humorous irony. Mrs. Rainey, like Snowdie and most of Morgana, does not understand the story she tells. She tells it precisely because it is beyond her how this marriage can continue to satisfy both parties. She responds to the attractiveness of King and Snowdie, perceives the balance that they achieve, yet cannot understand how it works, because it so clearly offends conventional morality. Mrs. Rainey’s perpetual amazement at the McLain marriage provokes laughter and delight.