Point of View
The story is told in the third person by a narrator who has insight into how the retarded boy and later man experiences the world. The narrator is a mature and sophisticated adult; when he needs to he uses complex sentence structures (one sentence contains 132 words), and the last six paragraphs are written in a heightened, lyrical style that enables him to convey his vision of the connection between the mentally retarded man and the infinity of the cosmos. This is a reality that the man cannot know for himself, except by some unconscious instinct. However, although the adult narrator has greater intelligence and verbal range than his subject, he uses several techniques that bring the reader closer to the experience of the retarded individual. First, the story contains no dialogue, which has the effect of conveying the locked-in nature of the boy’s experience; he cannot communicate with the rest of the human world. Second, in spite of his more sophisticated consciousness, the narrator’s style is predominantly simple, which conveys the childlike nature of the boy’s experience. Monosyllabic phrases such as “The House, large, white, behind trees and a fence,” and “a wind came through the big ash trees” suggest a child’s perceptions, expressed in language a child might use. Third, metaphor (the comparison of one thing to another dissimilar thing in such a way as to bring out a similarity between them) is employed to convey how the boy experiences ordinary things in a special way. The ice axe is “a cruel giant with dragon’s teeth”; and the knot he ties his shoelaces with is a “small, evil animal that the lace passed through.” Fourth, in order to bring the reader closer to the boy’s experience, the narrator sometimes employs the second-person form, as in, “water you inhale deeply has a strange way of stinging,” and “the joiner’s saws . . . that clattered so merrily when you released the tension.” Finally, the boy is unnamed throughout. He is referred to only as “he.” This namelessness conveys the way society depersonalizes him. He is a category—a mentally retarded male—rather than a living person with a personality and with likes and dislikes, interests and needs.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 22, Lars Gustafsson, Published by Gale Group, 2010