Truant by Claude McKay, 1932
The magic trick:
Garnering both sympathy and judgment from the reader for the protagonist by limiting the narration only to his point of view
“Truant” is the story of a man who is considering a very selfish decision. So it makes sense that it is told almost exclusively from his point of view. Sure, his wife and his daughter are mentioned. They are important parts of his life and his decision. But they are mentioned strictly from his point of view. We are getting his side of the story, his feelings about everything. It’s almost as if he isn’t even considering the effects of his decisions on them. Which maybe is the point. And that’s quite a trick on McKay’s part.
“Ah yes!” He had forgotten about Betsy, their four-year-old child. Always he had forgotten about her. Never could he quite realize that he was the father of a family. A railroad waiter, although he was thirty-six, he always felt himself just a boy – a servant boy. His betters whom he served treated him always as a boy – often as a nice dog. And when he grew irritated and snapped, they turned on him as upon a bad dog. It was better for him, then, that, although he was a husband and a father, he should feel like an irresponsible boy.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.