Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As Frankie tells his story in his own words, he chatters on and on about sex, family, the gang, and all their concerns. His is generally a beguiling voice, open and frank about his fears and uncertainties; it suggests a shrewd mind in control. His mind is not sophisticated or especially educated, but it is observant, and thus the language of the story works well in carrying the main theme of a young person’s journey to discovery.

The two old people whom Frankie meets during his long afternoon of waiting serve as a kind of chorus. Old Julia and old man Toms say little as they watch Frankie go about his round of time-filling activities, but they reveal their amusement at the folly of youth through their laughter. Precisely what strikes Old Julia as so funny remains unclear, but the adults’ role as tolerant spectators of adolescent problems is clear.

To confine the events of the story to one day, Sarris resorts to a flashback in Frankie’s mind to review his relationship with Caroline. This device allows the touching picture of the two young people playing husband and wife and mocking the banal dialogue of middle-class domestic life. They also play at being Romeo and Juliet, with convincing comic effect. The wholesome appeal of Frankie and Caroline in these scenes emphasizes both the inescapable struggle between the flesh and the spirit that so bedevils Frankie, and the final fall into knowledge of the two innocents.