Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Paul Gallico’s experience first as a sportswriter and later as a screenwriter as well as his often-stated goal of entertaining his readers rather than encouraging them to think caused him to create stories that rely heavily on plot details and external conflicts rather than on an exploration of psychological subtleties.

The characters in “The Enchanted Doll” are flat, being either totally good or totally evil. Amony is an idealistic doctor living and practicing in a poor neighborhood. Essie Nolan is at once completely helpless and totally loving, and her jailor-cousin is mean and self-serving. The suspense depends entirely on whether Amony will be able to rescue Essie from Rose before Essie gives up her will to live.

The lack of subtlety is further emphasized by Amony’s tendency to speak in clichés. Although the narrator warns that he is a doctor rather than a writer and even fears that his story will be “crudely told,” one might expect a doctor to be more original than his phrases “great reservoir of love,” “much blacker crime,” and “I who loved her beyond words” would indicate.

The least predictable, and therefore the most engaging, feature of the story is its realistic background. The factories belching coal smoke across the East River, the withered cigars and cardboard cutout advertisements in Sheftel’s window, and the cheap satin cushions in Rose’s bedroom create vivid visual images. The matter-of-fact accuracy of these details enhances what is essentially a formula plot.