See R. G. O'Meally, ed., Living with Music: Ralph Ellison's Jazz Writings (2001); biographies by L. Jackson (2002) and A. Rampersad (2007); studies by J. Hersey, ed. (1974), R. G. O'Meally (1980), A. Nadel (1988), M. Busby (1991), E. Schor (1993), J. G. Watts (1995), H, Bytkerm ed, (2000), H. Bloom, ed. (2003), K. W. Warren (2003), S. C. Tracy, ed. (2004), and J. S. Wright (2006).
"Croatoan" was also carved into a tree at the deserted Roanoke colony, possibly referring to the Croatan indians, whom many believe the survivors joined with when they left the colony.
Although abortion figures into the plot of "Croatoan", the issues surrounding abortion are not central themes in the story. In the story's introduction, Ellison states that the story is neither for nor against abortion, but rather a promotion of personal responsibility.(He goes on to say that after writing the story he had a vasectomy). The story is character driven, focusing on Gabe's growth beyond the pleasures of sex and casual relationships to embracing fatherhood and maturity. The critic Joseph Patrouch comments that the theme of searching for the responsibilities and maturity of fatherhood present in this story complements the recurring theme of searching for a father figure that is present in much of Ellison's work.
Patrouch also comments that the structure of the story highlights the emphasis on character over actions. Three distinct flashbacks are used at different moments in the narration in order to further develop the character of Gabe. The development of the plot is governed by Gabe's growth rather than external events. The non-linear narrative structure of "Croatoan" is typical of Ellison's style, and is a feature of many of his most famous stories.