Short Story Analysis

"The Stone Boy" By Gina Berriault

Critical Biography

  • Gina Berriault was born in 1926 in Long Beach, California, to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents.
  • As a child, Berriault was an avid reader, a self-described "restless spirit" who felt "confined in a classroom and longing to be out and roaming, either in the landscape or her imagination."
  • Berriault began writing at a young age due to her father, who worked as a marble cutter and later as a writer.
  • Her mother went blind when Berriault was fourteen years old, which, Berriault suggested, influenced her writing in "The Stone Boy."
  • She also found herself drawn to drama and art.
  • Although a drama teacher in high school offered to pay her tuition at a prestigious school, the death of Berriault's father prevented her from taking the offer, and she received no further formal education or any formal training as a writer.
  • By the late 1950's, she had collected a group of awards in the short-story field, among them the Paris review's Aga Khan fiction prize and two O. Henry awards.
  • Later on, she adapted her short story "The Stone Boy" for a film, released in 1984.
  • Berriault died in 1999, at the age of 73.
  • In 2009, the Gina Berriault Award, created by Peter Orner and Fourteen Hills Review at San Francisco State University in honor of Berriault's legacy.
  • (Berriault, Lyons, and Oliver)


"The Stone Boy" by Gina Berriault is taken place on a farm, about a nine-year-old boy who accidentally kills his older brother as they are on their way to pick peas (Berriault 2). The fact of the accidental killing of Eugene, however, is not the major question asked. Rather, the question involves why Arnold, after killing Eugene, does not return home immediately to call for help from his parents but instead spends another hour picking peas (Berriault 5). Arnold's parents and his uncle are unable to understand what kept Arnold in the garden while his brother laid dead. Arnold has no answer. All he can say is that the purpose of his trip to the garden in the first place was to pick peas, and the peas had to be picked while it was still cool (Berriault 5). The sheriff comes to the conclusion that the shooting was indeed an accident, or rather Arnold was either a moron or so reasonable that he was way ahead of them (Berriault 6).
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Analysis of Theme

Death is one of the leading themes in “The Stone Boy.” It is demonstrated literally in Eugene's death, but this accident brings about a series of metaphoric deaths (“The Stone Boy,”319). For Arnold, Eugene's death represents not only the physical loss of his brother but also of his male ideal (“The Stone Boy,”319). Arnold thought of Eugene as the “perfect young man, a role model” (Berriault 2). He saw Eugene as “perfect” due to everything he did seemed ideal. Eugene's loss means that Arnold no longer has a role model upon which to base his life.

By the end of the story, Arnold goes through a “metaphoric” death of his own. He realizes that his family has no trust in him and seems to want just to shut him out (“The Stone Boy,”319). When the sheriff says “ comes to my notice that the most reasonable guys are the mean ones. They don't feel anything” to Arnold's father and Uncle (Berriault 6). Arnold sees that his uncle’s eyes “had absorbed the knowingness from the sheriff’s eyes” meaning that Arnold could see the disappointment in his eyes (Berriault 6).

Arnold then isolates himself from his emotions as well as from the world. Making himself seem he is made of stone. He doesn’t rush to go tell anybody about his brother’s death, including his parents, and even continues to walk down to the garden to pick peas (Berriault 6).

Works Cited

Berriault, Gina, Bill Oliver, and Bonnie Lyons. "'Don't I Know You?': An Interview with Gina Berriault."The Literary Review 37 (Summer 1994): 714-723. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter and Deborah A. Schmitt. Vol. 109. Detroit: Gale, 1999. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 May 2016.

Berriault, Gina. “The Stone Boy.” 1957. PDF file.

"The Stone Boy." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale, 2000. 316-334. Print.