Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The streets and people of Homewood are moldy grays and jaundiced yellows. The Avenue is “a darker gray stripe between the gray sidewalks,” and Mr. Strayhorn peers at passersby out of “yellow eyes.” Interestingly, despite his animosity toward this neighborhood, Tommy also is associated with these colors. In one example, he complains about “crawling all sweaty out of the gray sheets. Mom could wash them every day, they still be gray. Like his underclothes. Like every . . . thing they had and would ever have.” Similarly, when he and Ruchell plot their ill-fated robbery, the lights about them cast a “yellow pall.” Thus, the color imagery stresses Tommy’s unfortunate ties to the community. He is already part of its human refuse, and his hopes of climbing out of the pile are as good as dead. However, the images link him to Homewood for another purpose, too. Regardless of his scorn for the winos, methadone users, and ruthless young gangs that have burgeoned over the years, Homewood is his ancestral seat. He walks where his gambling grandfather once strutted, and he passes “rain-soaked, sun-faded” posters paying silent tribute to other relatives’ lives. So, though a fresh start and unlimited advancement may never be his, he possesses a history that he cannot lose.

In one well-crafted series of bird images, Wideman vividly underscores Tommy’s ineffectual hopes. The young Lawson remembers how, missing the trolley back in high school days,...

(The entire section is 450 words.)