The Writing Style in “My Son the Murderer”
“My Son the Murderer” written by Bernard Mallard is a very interesting story. This story is hard to define and understand because of the writing style. It is about the Vietnam War, but the style in which is written does not reveal that. The readers need to figure out that hidden meaning through reading the story. This story is heterodiegetic narrative and the narrator is omniscient one. The dialog in the story is mostly between the father and the son. From their statements can be concluded what kind of characters they are. The narrator is telling what the character is doing but not and what their feelings are with one exception which is almost at the end of the story. Another important thing that can be said about this story is that is told in a poetic way.
From the very beginning, the first eleven lines are told in third person narration. This style of using the third person actually, in this case, the pronoun “he” is called third person narration. That means that the story is told by someone who eventually knows what is going on and reveals the story. In this story, the narrator is an omniscient one. “The “all knowing” narrator knows all of the details about events, as the story unfolds.” The narrator in this story knows everything about the characters and the action but is not a character in the story. That is why the narrator is heterodiegetic one. The way sentences are connected from the very beginning is strange in a way that is difficult to figure out who is doing what.
The very first sentence “He wakes feeling his father is in the hallway, listening” refers to the son. The second sentence “He listens to him sleep and dream” refer to the father. The style of narrating the story changes after the first eleven lines. The readers are exposed to a direct conversation between the father and the son. It is difficult to figure out who is saying what because is not told so. By carefully reading the passages, again and again, the readers can figure out what is going on. Because is not said who says what is difficult to figure out especially from these lines “My father listens in the kitchen. My temporary son.”
The second sentence actually is the thought of the son. That thought is how his father sees him. The same as this sentence “My son with the dead hand.” This sentence is not told by his father. It is told by Harry in a way how he thinks that his father sees him.
The dialog in the story is with the father, the mother and Harry. This kind of dialog is unusual because the words are not arranged as usual with quotation when someone is speaking or telling something. There is no support who is saying what. The style of writing makes some passages difficult to be understood. One example is these lines “I am frightened of the world, Harry thought. It fills me with fright.” It is difficult because there is a comma after the first statement. It is difficult to understand the suggestion of this sentence because he is saying something else. If it is so, that is the first time when the narrator is telling what someone in the story thinks.
From the statements that the characters are saying can be concluded what kind of characters they are. One example for this is these sentences “Since he graduated college last summer he is alone, nervous, in his own thoughts. If you talk to him, half the time he yells if he answers you.” These sentences are told by his father. It can be concluded what kind of character is Harry and how he behaves. What are the feelings of his father can be concluded from what the father is saying to Harry. Only from the dialog can be concluded what are the feelings and attitudes of the characters and what are their thoughts. The part where the third person narration is used, the narrator is just telling us what they are doing but not discovering what their feelings are. Examples of this are the first eleven sentences and also these ones “The father got his hat and left the house. He ran slowly for a while, running then walking until he saw Harry on the other side if the street. He followed him, half a block behind.”
The story is told in a poetic way. This can be concluded from these sentences “My father listens in the hallway. He follows me in the street. We meet at the edge of the water.” This is little strange because these sentences can also be a poem, but they are written as sentences which connect the poetic way of writing with the storytelling.
As was said in the introduction, this story is about the Vietnam War. Both characters know that the war is real, but they escape to talk about it. The style in which the story is written does not reveal directly what is all about. The proof how Harry sees the reality is the following sentences which somehow are a metaphor for the war “At night I watch the news program. I watch the war from day to day. It is a big burning war on a small screen. It rains bombs and flames go higher. Sometimes I lean and touch the war with the flat of my hand. I wait for my hand to die.” It is just incredible how the news on the TV is described.
What makes the story interesting is the style in which is written and the usage of literary figures. This story is a great example how a writing style can affect the understanding of the readers and all those who are reading this story.