Monday, March 27, 2023

Pedestrians in Edward P. Jones’s Short Fiction

By Kenton Rambsy

For Jones, pedestrians are narrative vehicles, the means of transportation to homes, neighborhoods, stores, downtown streets, and corners. The various descriptions of routes that Jones presents explain how characters directly interact with the physical landscape of the city.

In “A Butterfly on F Street,” the narrator describes the protagonist’s movements, explaining that “Mildred had crossed to the island from Morton’s, going to Woolworth’s, her eyes fixed upon a golden-yellow butterfly that fluttered about the median.” In “Bad Neighbors,” a character notices a neighbor “walking alone down 11th Street,” and decides to separate from her friends and walk home with him.

In “All Aunt Hagar’s Children,” the unnamed narrator imagines himself coming into a large sum of money after a gold hunting expedition: “I saw myself walking down M Street, strutting about New York Avenue, my pockets bulging with nuggets, big pockets, big as some boy’s pockets fat with candy.”

Perhaps no African American short story writer has been as committed to pedestrians as Jones, as his stories are filled with characters walking and encountering different types of people on the city streets.

This entry is part of a series--A Notebook on The Geographies of African American Short Stories.

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