The structure in Mark Slouka’s short story “Crossing” can roughly be divided into three parts: In the beginning, the characters are still within the safety of civilization. Once they cross the river, they venture into nature and enter the middle part of the story. The river serves as a symbolical border, so when they start crossing it on their way back, the characters enter the final part. This scene is also the climax of the short story. However, whether the man and his son make it back to civilization is uncertain due to the open ending.

The only characters we meet in “Crossing” are a father and his young son. We never learn their individual age or name, but we know that the man is divorced or separated from the mother of his son and is now struggling to find his new identity.

The story takes place in modern times, over just about twenty-four hours. The main setting is the wilderness of Washington State which is situated in the Western United States. A number of specific elements of the physical setting help build an atmosphere of rising tension in the story.

“Crossing” is told through a third person narrator with the point of view limited to the father. He is mostly characterized implicitly. The narrative technique of the short story includes numerous literary tools, which we will go through in the following analysis.

The language in “Crossing” contains a large amount of imagery, symbols and repetition. We will take you through these elements, too, in the follwing.

Short story analysis

For more advice about analysing short stories, you can read our general guide to short story analysis.