Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

White’s third-person narration of “The Door” immediately establishes that the story takes place inside the mind of the disturbed protagonist. Its very first sentence sets a pattern, which continues throughout, of using parenthetical phrases, such as “he kept saying,” to indicate that these are the thoughts of a man silently talking to himself. The protagonist’s claustrophobic feelings about being inside the model house mirror his entrapment within his own mind. The story’s nonlinear structure reinforces the idea that his obsessive thoughts spin helplessly around; he cannot choose a straight path and follow it, for he sees a door that will not open at the end of each one. The seemingly random repetition of ideas and phrases produces the same effect. Nearly everything desirable, from the cards that conceal the rats’ food to a beautiful woman’s dress, is described as having a circle on it.

The story also makes clever use of language itself. The unnamed female guide smoothly offers logically meaningless phrases, such as “maximum openness in a small room,” as though these constitute scientific proof of superiority. The rhythms and phrasing become lyrical, even biblical, however, when the protagonist considers the tragic desperation of the man in New Jersey. White scatters high-tech terminology, words such as “flexsan” and “thrutex,” throughout the story.

Technology has apparently permeated modern urban consciousness completely, so that the disaffected protagonist winds up choosing the harsh, ugly, synthetic word “plexikoid” to describe his deepest longings. Even in the privacy of his own mind, White implies, a modern person can no longer find any human words to express his heart’s desire.