Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Alice Walker clearly focuses on Sarah in “A Sudden Trip Home in the Spring.” Although Sarah’s family members are important in helping her come to a healthy acceptance of her heritage and a confidence in her own artistic abilities, Walker keeps the grandmother, brother, and grandfather in minor roles, in part by not giving them names.

Twice in the story, Walker refers to a rat that Sarah must stare down. The first reference to the rat is when Sarah is alone in her bedroom with her father’s body lying in the casket. She calls to her brother that there is a rat under the casket, but her brother does not hear anything, leaving Sarah alone to deal with it. The rat here is both literal and symbolic. Sarah stares straight at it until it finally runs away, but her thoughts just before she notices the rat are also important. As her father lies dead, Sarah is also forced to face the unpleasant feelings she harbors about him and their somewhat estranged relationship. After her mother’s death, Sarah avoided her father as much as she could, spending much of her time in her own room. Thinking now about how Wright came to terms with a father who betrayed him, Sarah wonders whether unresolved feelings about her own father may keep her from achieving a healthy connection with her own roots and with herself.

As an adult, understanding the hardships her father endured working as a farmhand for white farmers, Sarah begins to see that what she felt was...

(The entire section is 535 words.)