Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In this story, as in much of his work, William Faulkner attempted to telescope present and past time into the present moment. In “Wash,” he employs the epic techniques of in medias res and digression. The basic style is third-person, past-tense, direct narrative throughout, with little attention to psychological nuances except through suggestion. There is the almost objective viewpoint of reporting only what can be seen and heard. Even though Wash is followed as protagonist throughout, his inner thoughts and motivations are often inferred from words and deeds, although there is limited direct statement of such. The viewpoint, then, would seem to be limited omniscient third-person narration from the viewpoint of Wash, but with some of the qualities of objectivity.

Basic simplicity of structure is seen in the three parts of direct narrative, long digression, direct narrative. Intensity is achieved through the contrast of the two men and through the irony of their incongruous relationship. Compactness in the story is achieved through the focus on one day in one place, the classical unities of time and place, and through the coincidence of Wash’s recognition of the true nature of things with his reversal of intention (the classical unity of plot).

“Wash” may be read on two levels. As a short story it has all the internal ingredients for enjoyment and evaluation. The mass of information about Faulkner’s other writings and about...

(The entire section is 500 words.)