Defiant humility may appear to be an oxymoron, but in an age of know-it-alls, it has its place.
The short story “Their Ancient, Glittering Eyes” by Ron Rash is a wonderful example of the defeat of the know-it-alls, and demonstrates how we are all prone to taking on that role. Many short stories of Rash have surprise endings, and in that way he reminds us of O. Henry. However, Rash emphasizes the bitterness of life for those living in Appalachia, not the endings of his stories. With O. Henry, our attention is captured by the ingenuity of the endings rather than the content of the story itself.
Surprise endings, especially the ones provided by Rash, can do more than provide the reader with an unexpected rush and an indication of the writers cleverness. They remind us of the unpredictability of life. The fact that our best laid plans can go oft awry, and glory be snatched from the jaws of defeat. They are literary shock troops supporting the redoubt of defiant humility.