Sunday, March 22, 2015

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 269: Stephen Crane, His New Mittens (#269)

Stephen Crane, "His New Mittens" (1898) from Stephen Crane: Prose & Poetry:

Not much happens here, plot-wise: a boy with new mittens is tempted to join in a snowball fight--and then he does, against the admonition of his mother; his mother punishes him, which results in him running away into a snowstorm--until he goes to the butcher, who brings him back home. Not really all that much. Perhaps if you've seen the movie Boyhood (I haven't), you could make the connection: a young boy and nothing really happening.

But rather than place us in the boy's head, and giving us the grand melodrama as the boy feels it, Crane gives us a close third with more omniscience and coolness than we might think appropriate. Crane's not exactly holding up Horace as a figure of humor. In fact, according to the LoA headnote, there's some reason to think that Crane--loner, exile, sufferer--saw himself in Horace, the picked-on kid. Yet we never really entirely inhabit Horace's POV and there is some grim humor at Horace's expense. When the little kid decides to run away and then reconsiders--why not start in the morning, after the storm?--there's a glimpse of the tiny self-important hypocrites that children can be.

So a blank plot allows Crane the chance to play some interesting game with tone and POV here, positioning the hero of the ordinary as ... actually very ordinary. Horace--loner, exile, sufferer--isn't so much a vision of Crane as he is a vision of all of us at some point.

No comments:

Post a Comment