For there is no end to literary study of a text, and the reader of
the present work will surely feel that much else could, and
indeed should, be said….But then the analysis and survey
given above make no claim to completeness; they are meant
simply as a help to enable other readers to approach the text
more nearly. (146)
—Charles Conroy, Absalom, Absalom!
READING A BIBLICAL STORY and getting the most out of it is a process that begins with demarcating the story’s outlines, then analyzing its text and its different aspects, from structure and plot through characters and narrator, to time and place. And all the while, observing the finest points of style is essential, since the short stories we are examining employ minimalist and functional means. The juncture where all or most of these aspects merge is the story’s significance—or significances, since there may be more than one. Nor is that the end of it. It is then necessary to see how the story fits into its graduated contexts. A context may be close,