Robert Penn Warren: When The Light Gets Green (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 19)

7♣ 7♣ 7♣ 7♣ 7♣ 7♣ 7♣ 7♣

Then the leaves began to ruffle like they do when the light gets green, and my grandfather said to me,”Son, it’s gonna hail.”

My appreciation for Kentucky author Robert Penn Warren grows with every story of his that I read and that didn’t change with “When the Light Gets Green”.

Robert Penn Warren

A young boy gives the reader a look at his grandfather in the years just prior to World War I. The grandfather fought in the Civil War and made less than successful attempts at raising horses and tobacco. His daughters called him”visionary” because he read books and memorized poetry but also blame his lack of success on this visionary aspect.

Warren seamlessly describes the landscape as the grandson describes his grandfather. As beautiful as this natural world might be, it’s never quite considered a friend and in some ways it’s an enemy – a world that destroys as much as it might give.

The reader knows nothing about the grandson’s parents other than they are not around. His aunt and uncle also live with his grandfather and as war breaks out and his grandfather ages, the reader knows that he no longer lives with them.

While the grandson recognizes that he has no feelings for his grandfather, Warren manages to give this story an emotional punch for the reader.


This story is included in Robert Penn Warren’s collection The Circus in the Attic and Other Stories which I borrowed from my public library. I read it when I selected the Seven of Clubs for Week 19 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


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