Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “The Stone Boy,” Berriault creates symbols within the context of the story to direct readers toward a meaning that is not apparent on the surface. For example, nowhere in the story does the author say that the roles assumed by members of the family are stereotypically patriarchal, resulting in the reenactment of old patterns of behavior, in which sons and fathers sometimes engage in violent actions to keep each other and “their” women in their “rightful” places, as the places are defined by the dominant culture. By creating patterns made up of various telling details in the story, however, the author points readers toward this kind of reading, which gives surface action a meaning far beyond itself and invests characters with motivations deeply embedded in their subconscious.

It is possible for the reader to ignore the elements of symbolic structure and to accept surface content as all there is. Such reading of a symbolic story will cause the reader to miss important, complex, and universal relationships. More depth of interpretation ensures understanding of concepts continually present, linking the past and possibly the future.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The Decline of the American Farm Family
In the early years of the United States, farming was the main economic activity of...

(The entire section is 618 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Point of View
‘‘The Stone Boy’’ is told from a third-person, limited point of view; everything is filtered through...

(The entire section is 604 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1960: The United States had close to 4 million farms, which totaled around 990 million acres. The average farm had assets worth almost...

(The entire section is 204 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

The sheriff suggested only two possible explanations for Arnold’s behavior following the death of his brother. Do you think there are other...

(The entire section is 189 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘The Stone Boy’’ was adapted into a movie by 20th-Century Fox in 1984. Berriault wrote the screenplay.

(The entire section is 16 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

The Butcher Boy (1992) by Irish writer Patrick McCabe chronicles the descent of a neglected boy as he plunges deeper into madness and...

(The entire section is 143 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Amdahl, Gary. A review of Women in Their Beds, in The Nation, June 24, 1996, pp. 31-32.


(The entire section is 297 words.)