Structure

The short story “Saturday Afternoon” by Erskine Caldwell is structured around a single event plot— the killing of an African-American by men in a small American town, for allegedly speaking to a white woman. The narrative is organized according to classical plot elements (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution), but what strikes about its structure is the detached tone which makes both the rising action and the climax seem less tensed, as if the killing of a man was the most ordinary thing in the world to do on a Saturday afternoon.

Title

The title of the short story only reveals when the events to be narrated took place (the time setting)...

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Beginning

The short story begins with a rather lengthy exposition, which introduces readers to the setting, a butcher’s shop in a small town, and to one of the main characters, Tom Denny: “Tom Denny shoved the hunk of meat out of his way and stretched out on the meat block. He wanted to lie on his back and rest.”

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Middle

The middle of the short story continues with the rising action, building up to the climax. In the rising action, the men in town go after Will in the creek with their cars and wait for the black man to appear, having their guns prepared, as well as chains and gasoline:

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Ending

The ending of the short story includes the falling action in which the crowd of men scatters around after hanging Will’s body from a tree,...

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