Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Rick Bass learned the art of storytelling as a child in south Texas, listening to his grandfather and other relatives spin yarns at the family hunting lodge. This experience infuses much of his work with an oral quality, as though he is talking directly to the reader; critics often praise Bass for his comfortable use of a vernacular idiom. Best known for writing about the connection between man and nature, Bass often uses animals and setting symbolically, as he does in “The Watch.”

The text of this story has a restless quality; although the story is long, its scenes are short. Point of view switches from one character to another, and the plot moves abruptly through time. Conflict is left unresolved. Realistic characters are confronted with bizarre situations, as when Jesse sees Buzbee with a live carp under one arm. “And listen to this,” Jesse says to Hollingsworth, then suggesting that Buzbee has been “eating on that fish’s tail, chewing on it.” Bass has said that it is important to surprise the reader with unexpected twists in the plot; “The Watch” demonstrates his agility in doing so.