Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrative style of this story belies the complexity of its construction. Greenberg balances major scenes carefully, pivoting them on the central experience of Margolin’s visit to the state mental hospital. The story opens with Margolin’s measured protest against the construction of the towers. After an encounter with Westercamp, he feels annoyed at what he perceives as an intrusion into his private life by someone trying to get him involved in a movement for social change. His frustration is exhibited in his curt response to Westercamp’s description of the Chontal society. When he has chastised his neighbor, he feels smug and satisfied.

Margolin’s interview with the Indian at the mental hospital shows him the hubris that lies at the center of his own personality. That scene is followed quickly by another encounter with Westercamp, one in which Margolin refrains from criticizing his neighbor’s mistaken views of the Hunza. Feeling upset and irritable, he ends up making a primitive response to release his frustrations: He begins hurling the spear he had hitherto used only for classroom demonstrations, making this symbolic gesture as a protest against the towers.

The balanced structure is supported by carefully crafted descriptions of scenery that focus on the beauty of the countryside and the imposing, ugly towers. Greenberg portrays the towers as animate objects that have invaded the countryside. They symbolize all that is wrong with the encroachment of technology and civilization on nature. Further, since the point of view is limited to Margolin’s vision, the reader is led only gradually to realize that there is much merit in Westercamp’s view and that the story is really about Margolin’s conversion to appreciate the supremacy, in a sense, of communities such as that of the Hunza.