Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Gautreaux has said he got the idea for this story one day while he was in the Wal-Mart and heard a middle-age man’s voice complaining to a friend about his three daughters who kept having children out of wedlock and bringing them over so that he and his wife could take care of them. What caught Gautreaux’s attention was the old guy’s great voice, “southern, smart, and full of humor.” Indeed, what makes “Welding with Children” a pleasure to read is the first-person voice of Bruton. The voice is colloquial but not corny. It is the voice of a man who has had all the best intentions, but who has been careless about his parenting, just as he has been careless about what litters his yard.

The story is deceptive in its simplicity, meandering along without apparent formal tightness. For example, at one point Bruton spends several paragraphs recollecting the few months he spent in college before flunking out. Although this section may seem irrelevant to the story’s theme, it is actually part of the foundation for Bruton’s central view that feelings are more important than intellect. He says that one semester in college gave him his money’s worth learning about people with hearts no bigger than birdshot.

Heart is exactly what Bruton communicates in his comic, yet poignant, lament about how his grandchildren are hopelessly ignorant about religion, and thus morality, and how it must be his fault. For this story to work, the reader has to like Bruton as much as Gautreaux does. Gautreaux’s masterful, yet seemingly simple, control of the first person point of view makes it clear that Bruton is a simple man who has a good heart. At the end of the story, both Gautreaux and the reader can only wish him well.