Communist by Richard Ford, 1985
The magic trick:
The contrast between what the narrator says to the reader and what the narrator’s character says in the story
Les narrates “Communist” for us, and he is a fairly common narrator for a Richard Ford fiction. He is incredibly self-aware, highly analytical, detail oriented, incredibly sensitive to meanings and subtext. This makes for a very satisfyingly psychological reading experience. Dense, yes, but satisfying.
Interestingly, in “Communist” there is a dramatic contrast between Les the narrator and Les the character in the story he is recounting. Les the narrator talks to the reader about his feelings. Les the character says almost nothing. He certainly doesn’t express his feelings or his opinions. It’s a jarring difference and one that is important to enhancing the effect of the boy/tainted father figure themes. And that’s quite a trick on Ford’s part.
Then for the first time in that entire day, I was alone. And I didn’t mind it. I sat squat down in the grass, loaded my double gun and took my other two shells out of my pocket to hold. I pushed the safety off and on to see that it was right. The wind rose a little, scuffed the grass and made me shiver. It was not the warn Chinook now, but a wind out of the north, the one geese flew away from if they could.
Then I thought about my mother, in the car alone, and how much longer I would stay with her, and what it might mean to her for me to leave. And I wondered when Glen Baxter would die and if someone would kill him, or whether my mother would marry him and how I would feel about it. And thought I didn’t know why, it occurred to me that Glen Baxter and I would not be friends when all was said and done, since I didn’t care if he ever married my mother or didn’t.
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