“The Waste Land” by Alan Paton is a very brief short story structured around a single event – a man is ambushed by some thieves and eventually manages to escape them, but accidentally kills one of the attackers, who, most probably, turns out to be his son.
Most shorts stories are structured using a plot, which refers to a series of consecutive moments marking certain points in the narrative: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution.
In what follows, we will look at the structure of “The Waste Land” and outline the plot elements along with relevant narrative techniques.
The title of the short story is very suggestive. Waste land usually refers to an abandoned area, either barren or full of waste.
The short story has an abrupt exposition, in media res, which means the author starts the narrative in action, without giving details about the setting or the characters.
The middle of the short story is where the narrative develops by introducing tension points which mark the rising action and lead to a climactic moment.
Most of the rising action in this text is very tense, as the short story is about a man who runs for his life trying to escape some thieves. The rising action takes place in the waste land, the only place in which the protagonist has a chance of escaping.
The ending of the short story comprises the falling action – the youngsters push Freddy’s body under the same lorry his father hides – and the resolution.