Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The emotionally charged style of “Twenty-six Men and a Girl” is characteristic of Gorky’s early narrative prose. The writer reveals a predilection for dramatic, bold metaphors and imagery, such as the huge oven, which he compares to the ugly head of a fantastic monster and which stares pitilessly at the workers as if they were slaves. Gorky’s descriptions often have a sustained symbolic resonance. At the outset of the story, the narrator notes that the basement windows are covered so that the sunlight cannot reach the workers. Later, he states that Tanya had in some sense taken the place of the sun for them. It is significant, then, that the day on which Tanya consummates her relationship with the dandy turns out to be wet and rainy. On that day, the workers lose their sun, both literally and figuratively.

Gorky’s emotional style also manifests itself in the passage about the workers’ singing. His prose in that section is extremely lyrical and rhythmic. The Russian lines pulsate with a palpable beat, and one observes a complex interweaving of recurring consonant and vowel sounds. This lyrical, dynamic dimension apparent in Gorky’s early prose style had a significant impact on the prose of the subsequent generation of Russian writers.