(This is an assignment I had in my creative writing class. In it we discussed how dialogue can be used and the many different ways an author can use it to deliver their message. )
Jesmyn Ward’s “Cattle Haul” is a creative short story that brings the dialect of the characters into the narrative. Many authors reserve the dialect to be heard in the dialogue as the characters speak. Ward takes a different approach and writes the entire story in the local dialect of the author. One example is this piece from “Cattle Haul”:
Before Grandmama died and left the trailer to me, the faucets in the house started spitting out sand because the well was too shallow. I ain’t have no money to get the well re-dug, so I moved back in with my daddy. I cleaned her trailer every Sunday and I got a job as a janitor at Love’s gas station but I couldn’t never make enough for that well. When I asked about a loan, the bank teller looked at me like I was a nutra-rat. I was still trying to talk the well digger into taking payments.
Most times when an author writes in the local dialect, I tend to have to read it out loud to fully get the meaning. When I read this section, I can hear in my voice the Southern dialect I grew up with. Traditionally, the narrative is written with correct grammar and sentence structure. Here, Ward steps out of the mold and lets the narrative become the dialogue with the point of view being in first person.
Many people with less education speaks with run on sentences. The character’s narrative does here as well as he states, “I cleaned her trailer every Sunday and I got a job as a janitor at Love’s gas station but I couldn’t never make enough for that well.” Saying it out loud, I can hear the character actually saying the words. The writing style helps to bring the character to life and allows me to feel as though the character is speaking right to me.
Ward, Jesmyn. “Cattle Haul” A Public Space Issue No.4. Electric Literature. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.