Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The most prominent stylistic achievements of “Walker Brothers Cowboy” include its particularly distinctive use of first-person point of view and its tendency to communicate through implication rather than overt statement. Munro relates the story through the eyes of a child even though no child could adequately comprehend the dynamics of its principal actions. The narrator, for example, is too young to fully understand the nature of Ben’s relationship to Nora. Any adult, however, would gather from the details she observes about them that Ben and Nora share a familiarity with each other that could have resulted only from a teenage romance left unresolved by time and circumstance. Thus, the central consciousness of “Walker Brothers Cowboy” is clearly adult despite the fact that its narrator is ostensibly a preadolescent child. This lends a marked sense of irony to the story that underscores its somber, pessimistic tone.

Munro exploits this irony to remarkable effect, using it as way to contrast the difference between the way children and adults perceive the world. A child relates the tale, but its intended audience is clearly adult. No child would see the need to revisit the past, particularly a person’s distant and perhaps obscured past, the way an adult would. However, exploring why people sometimes need to resurrect long-lost feelings and experiences is the thematic locus of the story. Thus, Munro writes “Walker Brothers Cowboy” from the unlikely point of view of a child to reinforce the paradox already inherent in her subject matter. In this way style and theme mirror each other perfectly in the story, which is both bold and memorable in its attempt to merge form and content in highly innovative ways.