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) — one Saturday afternoon, but says nothing about the actual plot and chain of events. Upon reading the short story, the title becomes symbolic of the men’s indifference to violence; although that Saturday afternoon they have killed an African-American man, they treat the event as nothing out of the ordinary, as if something very common on a Saturday afternoon.

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 stre...

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