Historical narrative

Point of View

The point of view shifts throughout the novel but it is primarily that of the ever-elusive narrator.


Colloquial; familiar; musical; rhythmic; cool and measured; associative; stream- of-consciousness; universal; mythic


Alternates between the present and past tense


Virginia, Baltimore, and New York City ("the City" beeing specifically Harlem) in the late 19th century through the mid-1920s.


The entirety of the Joe-Violet-Dorcas plot is spelled out in the first paragraph of the novel leaving little as a surprise in that storyline; Joe's need to hunt foreshadows his search for his mother and later his lover; Violet's odd behavior in public presages her violent outburst.


The climax of the central plot occurs when Joe finds Dorcas at the party and shoots her. However, the novel's many digressions and meanderings back and forth in time offer numerous alternative climaxes and the book as a whole resists a single narrative sequence.

Falling Action

The spring of 1926 when the relationship between Violet and Joe begins to heal