Style and Technique

Bulosan creates an atmosphere of utter dreariness by using a flat, almost monotonous prose style. His third-person point of view enhances the sense of detachment that his protagonist experiences. The most conspicuous technique in the story is its lack of specific names, dates, places—in short, any concrete references. This keeps the reader at arm’s length from the narrative, thereby helping the reader to experience feelings of exclusion similar to those of the protagonist. Bulosan is so careful about the indefiniteness of his story that he does not refer to specific devices, clothing styles, vehicles, events, or other objects or contrivances that might enable a reader to localize either a time setting or a place for the story.

There is room for doubt about the protagonist’s soundness of mind, although the third-person narrative stance militates against suspecting the reliability of the plot happenings. Why does the protagonist withdraw into a shell when doing so is obviously painful to him? At times one may detect inconsistencies, as in the oxymoronic expression “watching his shoes move and gleam in the glare of the faint light.” However inclined a reader may be to see the plot as revealing the unraveling of a mind, the coherence of the symbolism works against a deconstructionist reading of the story. The “young men and women of many races” mentioned in the first part of the opening paragraph are neatly paralleled by the different colors of...

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