Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In this third-person narrative, readers are privy only to the thoughts of Christine; her mind is the subject of the story. The other characters come into focus in the story only as Christine looks their way: Stevie is introduced, “meditatively chewing his hand,” when Christine scans the lawn to see who has arrived. Annette arrives at the party and is introduced by the narrator as one of the signs of Christine’s success. The fictional world revolves around Christine, and everywhere she looks, the reader can feel emotion: Annette produces jealousy in Christine, Robert awakens her desire, and John frightens her at the story’s close with his question about their marriage. If Prose had not allowed us this entry into Christine’s consciousness, the story would not have the same power.

The story also achieves power by its gradual unfolding. Nearly every page has a new revelation about the central character and her relationships. The reader only gradually learns about her pregnancy, her ambivalent feelings about John, her attraction to Robert and her feelings of guilt, and the significance of the story’s title. The story unfolds for the reader in the same way it unfolds for Christine. It is only in a conversation with Annette and Robert that Christine recognizes that her life has always been closed down. She, like many characters in fiction, discovers something about herself at the same time that the readers discover it. She learns about her...

(The entire section is 405 words.)