Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

O’Brien’s use of a first-person narrator to relate her story has advantages as well as limitations. As an educated and articulate woman, her narrator can articulate the pain of those who suffer mutely. However, this narrator also has special limitations as an observing consciousness. Not even she can penetrate the mystery of the Creature’s full identity; she thus ends her narrative by still calling the woman for whom she feels such compassion “The Creature.” Although this suggests that the woman possesses no true human identity, it simultaneously suggests that identity rests on more than names, labels, or reputations. Instead, the Creature’s identity is captured and made alive for the reader by the narrator’s greater attendance to the qualities of her character.

The use of a first-person narrator makes the reader always aware that the story is told through a limited point of view. However, this use of a first-person narrator also contributes to the authenticity of the story largely because the narrator is not simply telling a story from her own life; as an outsider reporting on the lives of others, she can achieve an objectivity that the principal characters do not possess.

O’Brien’s story is short and she selects her details tellingly, giving the reader only as much information as is necessary for them to enter into the drama and feel compassion for the Creature and the narrator. For example, the narrator catalogs the...

(The entire section is 491 words.)