Short Story Analysis
For the purposes of comparison the two texts being discussed are Graham Greene’s “The Destroyers” and Mildred D. Taylor’s “The Gold Cadillac”. Both texts are set in the 1950’s but on different sides of the Atlantic: ‘The Destroyers’ in east end London and ‘The Gold Cadillac’ in Ohio, USA. The settings are as appropriate to each story as the differences in narration. In ‘The Destroyers’ the story is based around a gang of boys, the Wormsley common gang, during a period of post-World War II rationing. The telling of the story is omniscient, narrated by an unbodied, all-knowing author. As the tale unfolds, the reader learns of events that have happened from an impartial distance: “the next time the gang became aware”, “the gang were puzzled”, and “he was vaguely aware of a voice”. The whole story is focused on the gang’s actions in relation to Mr Thomas’s house. The gang gut and set up the absolute annihilation of a whole house, and yet with the boys as the centre of the story, sharing insights into their strange morals and standards, the reader comes to have a degree of empathy towards their behaviour. So although despicable by deed, the narration offers the chance of impartiality, some distance with which to observe the context in which this conduct could occur. The reader’s reaction to the complete wilful destruction is justifiably shock at the sheer extent of the damage and the narration helps to keep the story unemotional and factual – the deeds and reasons behind them are the story. This differs entirely in style to ‘The Gold Cadillac’ in which the whole story is told first hand by not only a member of the family, but a young girl. The story is essentially about the family’s purchase of a new, somewhat ostentatious car, but realistically the story is about a young girl’s loss of innocence and a window to what living in 1950’s America would have been like for a member of the black community. It also highlights the large differential not only between the laws within northern and southern American states, but also the alarming difference in the attitude of the people residing there. The use of first person narrative in ‘The Gold Cadillac’ has the effect of making the story personal, not only bringing the reader into the experience but by seeing the changes and feelings through the author’s eyes. The differences in narrative technique are both equally effective to both short stories as they add a different dimension as required. ‘The Gold Cadillac’ deals with the feelings of a child, stigmatisation, and the family unit so it requires a degree of feeling and engagement from its audience. Although set in similar times historically, ‘The Destroyers’ have altogether different issues to face and the actions within the story are relayed from a more distant voice, seeing all the wrongdoing that the gang carry out upon an innocent man, for no apparent reason other than because the house still stands, despite much of the surrounding property having been destroyed. The reader is required to try to understand their motives and morals but not necessarily to bond or agree with them. The added benefits of the narrative styles in the stories are that of perspective. In the Graham Greene piece, the narrator knows of the history of all the characters and their unspoken beliefs, “the leader, who was known as Blackie, claimed to have heard it fall”, and “Mike, fell quiet, daunted by the serious…gaze”. The boys find money in the house but choose to destroy and burn it rather than take it because, as ‘T’ says, “we aren’t thieves”; this gives a strange idea of the boys’ base morality. If the story had been told in first person narrative then this view would be further complicated by the idea that the story teller is skewing the truth to add heroic effect to the boy’s actions. In Mildred Taylor’s work the perspective is of a young girl telling a story about the actions and reactions of both her parents; people she...
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