In his introduction to “The Harvest,” Julian Olivares quotes from an unpublished manuscript in which Rivera commented on the construction of a short story: “The conflict or problem of each story is what interests us as a story. The more intriguing the conflict, the more the story will interest the reader.” This, says Rivera, is because every reader has a natural desire to find out how the conflict is resolved. In “The Harvest,” the interest is generated by the problem, or mystery, of exactly what Don Trine does when he goes off on his walks. The development of the mystery dictates the structure of the story, which proceeds in alternating sections of narration and dialogue. With each section, as the youngsters continue to speculate about what Trine does, the reader’s interest in the mystery grows. It is only in the last section, which is longer than all the others, that the mystery is revealed.
Point of View
The story is told by a limited third person narrator, who observes the activities and attitudes of the migrant workers. The narrator knows what is going on in the minds of the youngsters who speculate about Don Trine, but he has no insight into Trine himself, who is seen entirely through the eyes of the boys. This technique is necessary to create the sense of mystery about Trine’s activities on which the story depends.
Of all the characters, only Trine is named. The Other characters are anonymous, and there are no physical descriptions of them. The dialogue does not identify any differences between the speakers, other than their words, which stand alone like dialogue in a play. This is a technique Rivera used elsewhere. The anonymity places the emphasis on the experience of an entire group, rather than on individuals. The speakers are representatives of a collective voice, that of migrant workers as a group.
After the narrator has mentioned that in the fall there was “an aura of peace and death” in the air that the workers created, he comments, “The earth shared that feeling.” This figure of speech is known as the pathetic fallacy, in which human emotions are attributed to natural things. It conveys the idea that, for the narrator, the earth is a living being.
In the final section of the story, the boy discovers this also. As he thrusts his arm into the hole, he feels as if the earth is reaching out to grasp his fingers, “even caressing them,” and he “sensed he was inside someone.” Then the boy refers to the earth as “sleeping” and later, when the frost comes, as “asleep.” This feeling that the earth is alive gives the boy new affection for the land. He compares the earth to a person who has died and regrets that he has not loved it more before it went to sleep.
Carol Ullmann (Editor) Short Stories for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, Volume 15, Tomas Rivera, Published by Gale, 2002.