‘‘Sweet Potato Pie’’ is told by Buddy, the first-person narrator. The reader is privy to all of Buddy’s thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, the other characters can only be seen though Buddy’s perceptions of them. The events in the story, past and present, can only be seen this way as well. The reader feels close to Buddy for these reasons, but it is often harder to understand the other characters objectively (since they can only be seen through the narrator’s subjective point of view). Because Buddy feels so close to his family, this detriment is less apparent in the story. Still, the reader is left with some questions, as when Buddy mentions Jamie’s death in passing. The lack of details and dismissive nature are striking. Other examples of this lack of information include Buddy’s mention of the war and being injured as a soldier and of his marriage and children. All of these seemingly important life events are mentioned only briefly and without explanation. In this manner, what the narrator does and does not discuss at length indicates what is and is not important to him. This reveals more about Buddy’s character than it does about the subjects under discussion. It would seem that Buddy’s wife and children are less important to him than Charley is.
Although Buddy’s speech and narration are in standard English, all of the other characters speak in dialect, a typically non-standard type of speech that often features the heavy use of slang and contractions. Charley, as both a child and an adult, speaks in dialect. He uses words such as ‘‘ain’t’’ and ‘‘git’’ (for ‘‘get’’). In one instance, when telling Buddy not to bring the brown bag into the hotel, Charley says, ‘‘You can’t neither.’’ Charley speaks in dialect because he is uneducated. Bea also speaks in this manner, indicating that she had little access to education as a child as well. Dialect indicates not only the level of education of the speaker but often also his or her socioeconomic class. It was Charley’s childhood poverty that prevented him from receiving an education in the first place, and this is likely the case for Bea as well. That Buddy does not speak in dialect is a further indication of the social divide that exists between Buddy and his family, despite his evident love for them and theirs for him.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 30, Eugenia Collier, Published by Gale Group, 2010