“The Sleeping Stone” by Jack Trammell is a first world short story which is written based on the period of the Civil War in United State of America. In the story, Trammell tried to convey the effects of war in a wife’s perspective whose husband died during the war. Moreover, he implies wife’s strong desire to see her husband’ return.
Jack Trammell is an American writer, researcher, and a professor who is born in Berea, Kentucky. According to the sources, he lives in a small village in Virginia with his wife and seven children. He has started his writing career when he was a teenager. So far he has written many poems, short stories, journal articles and novels vary from text books to award winning publications. Moreover, he has written regular military column for the Washington Times for several years. He has become a member of many associations related to literature work such as Poets & Writers association in New York, The Poetry Society of Virginia, and The Writer's Club of Virginia. “The Stepping Stones” is a short story of his “The Civil War Collection” along with “the thing you want,” “Spoon Boy,” “A Glimpse of Heaven,” and “Company G.”
This plot of this story intervened around Ellie whose husband, Horey, joint the army during the civil war. The story tells us how she deals with life hoping to see his husband returning after the war. However, she strengthens her mind to admit that her husband has died during the war and to live the rest of her life with her children.
The plot of this story arranged chronologically which begins in spring and ends in summer without changing the flow of the story. Moreover, the writer has used foreshadowing as plot devices. He has given clues using weather, “why was spring reluctant this year? Surely enduring such miserable, starving entitled them to decent planting weather.”
In the exposition, we are introduced the main character who is Ellie and the hard life she spends. Furthermore, the exposition includes the setting the plot takes part which is spring.
““Spring is not meant to be cold.” This is what Ella thought as she bent over and picked up the sleeping stones she had placed outside several days ago. The way sun was shining made her feel as if the season was being cheated. She moved …”
This shows that even though it is spring, the weather seems like it is winter which predicts about an unfortunate omen. Besides, she implies awkwardness that she feels about her life. The man, Zebulon working in the farm makes her feel even more unease.
The incident which is going to happen in the story is shown when Ellie is standing and looking towards the road across the Big Sandy River. The narrator mentions that it is the direction that Ellie’s husband arrives home from the army. “That was the direction Horey would come from when he returned from army. She inadvertently blushed and immediately scurried back in to the house to see to breakfast.” These lines show that she is eager to see her man’s arrival. Moreover, the rising action provides a hint that this story is about Horey’s return after the war. In addition, when Ellie asked about the war from Mr. Franklin, he said that he reckon so and also said, “But you’d best not to get your hopes up too high. They will probably keep men like Horey longer than the rest.” These lines also offer some clues that there’s no point of keeping much expectations of Horey.
The turning point of the story can be identified as when the woman receives the black letter which is the death notice of her beloved husband. When I was reading the story, I wanted to see how she would react if her husband died at the war. Thus, at the moment, she saw Mr. Franklin placed the envelope; I happened to think what would be next. Although Ellie needed to see Horey alive, she could only receive a death notification which she could even recognize it without wanting to open it. “The letter was black-rimmed and could only mean one thing. Ella didn’t have to read it to know that her husband is dead.” The conflict of the story is internal because she always struggles with her mind how to deal with society without her husband. “Ella said nothing to him, offering only a very subdued lift of narrow lip.” These lines imply that she doesn’t convey feelings or the tension she has after discovering that her husband is no long alive and she fights with her own heart to deal with her conflict.
“When Franklin returned next day, he immediately noticed that Ella’s sleeping stones were missing. As he called out a lukewarm greeting to her, he also noticed someone cutting suckers off the burley several hundred yards away.”
There are four characters in the story. They are Ella, Franklin, Zebulon and Horey. Among these characters, the protagonist is Ella and the rest are antagonists who play minor roles in the story. Moreover, each and every character contributes to the story in an interesting way. Characters are described separately below.
Ella is tall and comparatively feeble who is a village woman married to a soldier. She is having a tendency to help others, thinking and eventually despair. She is the protagonist of the story. Moreover, she is defined as a round character because the author has given explanations about her, “She was his opposite in physical appearance (and other ways too), being tall and relatively frail.” “Ella was not a strong person in physical sense, coming from a family of small – boned, tended toward charity, philosophy, and ultimately depression.” In addition, she is a dynamic character because she changes her attitudes over the conflict. The sleeping stones represent her changes. “The sleeping stones went back out the same day. The rock seemed clean and unstained in their perfect smoothness, caressing her hands as she placed them down on the ground in the very front of the yard.” These lines mention that she used to keep sleeping stones before she got the news that her husband was dead. Simultaneously, she left them as she was aware of her husband, “he immediately noticed that Ella’s sleeping stones were missing.” The author has used showing method to present Ella’s character. ““You are right,” she said quickly.” Finally, Ella is a well-developed character in order to make the story interesting.
Horey is Ella’s husband. However, there is no physical description inserted to this antagonist character. Therefore, it can be mentioned as a flat character. Moreover, there are no information stated about Horey other than he is a soldier. Also it is a static character that plays the Ella’s husband’s role.
Mr. Franklin, who is an antagonist of the story, is a stock and static character because he doesn’t change through the conflict. He is a seventy years old post master. He is helping Ella delivering messages and visiting to see if she is having a fine time. ““You okay Ellie?” Franklin, the seventy-year-old postmaster asked.” However, the author has made use of showing technique to present characters, “Of course, Ellie, the moment news arrives.”
Zebulon is the man who works for Ella in tobacco fields, in corn colleting, and taking care of fences. He is weighty, short man whose hair is untidy who is called as “Zeb.” Moreover, he is a round and static character because the author has described him in detail and he is immutable over the conflict. “The shadow took on the oblong shape of a man; a somewhat overweight and short man, with hair that struck out wildly from one side of his head like a snake lashing out.” In addition, the writer has used showing mechanism when presenting character as other characters. He uses dialogs, “I told you, Ellie, it was too early to turn the stones out. Didn’t I tell ‘e? I like to have frozen last night…”
This story takes part in a farming village in Kentucky. It shows how hard to get to know what is going on outside of their remote village. “President Lincoln had been dead a full two weeks when Ella found out that the war was over.” It is implied when Zeb mentions about the work he does in the fields such as working on tobacco, collecting corn. This story begins during spring which is unexpectedly cold for a spring, “spring is not meant to be cold.” Moreover, the story ends during summer which symbolizes the infinite potential for the future which gives warmness. Weather also provides even darker background to the story.
Point of View
Trammell has used third person limited point of view to make the flow of the story. He only illustrates thoughts of Ella, but he demonstrates dialogs of other characters including Ella. ““Where is the spring?” she thought again, picking up another slab.” When Zeb asked, “Am I hearing you co-rectly, Ellie?” Ellie said, “I want you to go. I’m a married woman.” These show that the narrator has used third person point of view but he has been limited to Ella’s mind.
Symbolism is the outstanding technique which Trammell has used throughout this story. He has used many symbols to convey certain predictions such as colors, seasons, and weather. “Spring is not meant to be cold.” This shows that although spring is meant to be refreshing and birth of new, the author has used its unusually cold during the spring predicting that some unfortunate happenings are going to occur. Furthermore, Trammell inserted black color which stands for bad omen at many occasions. For instance, “the letter was black-rimmed…” In addition, the sleeping stones also bear a symbolic meaning which is related to death because they are not just stones but also they are sleeping.
After effects of war
This story provides information about the Civil War which occurred in United States of America through their conversations. “Wouldn’t you think now that Morgan’s men would be disbanding soon, now that it’s all over?” Although Ella keeps hopes for Horey, Franklin suggests her not to keep high hopes because only a few men return from the war. Moreover, while they were discussing Ella’s five-year-old boy, Horey junior was trying to find out if there were any news available about his father. This illustrates that importance of father for a family. Because of the war, this family had lost their father. This family represents all the women and children who lost their husbands or fathers during the war.
Wife without her husband
This story demonstrates the difficulties a wife has to face when her husband is dead or away from the family. Since, Ella lives in a farming village, she has to work hard in order to make her living. Therefore, there is Zeb to work for her. Besides, Ella requested Zeb to leave because she was afraid of the society that the people would misunderstand her. “I want you to go. I’m a married woman.” Moreover, she thinks that working on tobacco, collecting corn and making fences can be done by her husband, but she will have to do all those activities alone if Zeb leaves when her husband has died. In addition, she has to bring up few children of hers who are not even six-years. She makes her kids’ minds when they ask for their Pa. Accordingly, this short story reveals smoothly how hard the life for a married woman who doesn’t have a husband.
Trammell uses simple diction which can easy to understand the majority of readers. He has make use of techniques such as similes and metaphors. For example, “from one side of his head like a snake lashing out,” “Ella’s emotions were like spring, long delayed and buried in a layer of frost covering the earth,” “Ella blossomed on a day late in May.” The sentence structure is also simple and has used indirect speech using dialogs. The boy spoke for all of them, “Does this mean that Pa is going to be home?” The author creates a sad tone mixed with anticipation through the story.