Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story’s title, “Demonology,” refers to a demonology, a learned treatise on demons, often associated with the Middle Ages, as well as the narrator’s attempts to come to terms with his various personal demons. This division between the arcane and the colloquial is a stylistic device that permeates the story and illustrates postmodernism’s tendency to operate in at least two registers simultaneously. The story unobtrusively blends religious diction and terminology with clichés and everyday language. Frequently announcing the discrepancy between his melancholic, often esoteric, erudition and Meredith’s less self-conscious immersion in everyday life, the narrator invokes postmodernism’s recognition of the limits of discourse and representation.

The narrator wishes to construct a taxonomic description of reality—he wonders what species of shark his nephew’s costume was meant to signify. By contrast, Meredith is primarily interested in actively filling her days. Describing how his sister was never good in the morning without a cup of coffee, the narrator repeats the word “never” several times. This is a knowing allusion to the famous speech in William Shakespeare’s King Lear (c. 1605-1606), in which the bereaved king mourns how his murdered daughter Cordelia will never live again. That Moody incorporates this allusion into a series of sentence fragments further connects this story to postmodernist aesthetic techniques, which often favor the rhetorical mode of parataxis (the placing of phrases one after the other without connecting them) over synthesis.


(The entire section is 661 words.)