Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The style in which this story is told, featuring ordinary language and sentence structure, highlighted by vivid imagery, combines with its point of view and symbolism to allow the reader to see Elijah’s life as he sees it. At the same time, it maintains distance as a thoughtful outside observer of what is actually going on. Although the narrative point of view is third-person omniscient, it focuses on Elijah’s viewpoint, presenting almost everything as it is seen and understood by him. Even details that are especially important from the reader’s outside point of view, such as the clownish shape of Elijah’s legs and the near-hysteria of his laughter, with its chilling effect on the other bathers’ perception of him, also are vaguely perceived by Elijah himself and contribute to his eventual realization that his dream of romance is an illusion.

Elijah’s consciousness, like the story’s setting, is divided between the beach and his home, but the powerful unifying force is his consciousness of family. He tries to deny the claims of his family at home, only to pursue his fantasy of romance, ironically, through a misunderstanding and falsification involving a quasi-family at the beach. The father of the boys at the beach is absent, just as Elijah himself is absent from his children.

The device that focuses the conflicting forces in Elijah’s dilemma is the symbol that is presented in the story’s title. The beach umbrella functions...

(The entire section is 448 words.)