Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Faithful Wife” is the first of thirty-nine short stories that Callaghan published in The New Yorker. Though his style changed over the years, developing even more of the flat, uninflected, and pared-down quality of modernist American contemporaries such as Sherwood Anderson or Ernest Hemingway, here Callaghan focuses on a moral dilemma by almost meticulously presenting a series of contrasting images.

The oppositions are abundant and are initially suggested by the contrast of coldness and warmth in the first paragraph. George’s characterization contrasts with those of the more worldly countermen and “red-capped porters” who work at the train station. Lola contrasts with the other young women who frequent the lunch counter; to some extent this is highlighted by the dissimilarity of their appearances. Lola is shabby and poor, while the other young women are “brightly dressed and highly powdered.” Lola has no fur collar on her coat, while most of the others have “a piece of fur of some kind.” Further, the other young women smile at George, who knows them by their first names, while Lola remains shy, aloof, and nameless.

Callaghan does not present these oppositions merely to define George and Lola, for both are more than their mere opposition to others first suggests. For example, George is seemingly shy about speaking to Lola, but he may be more experienced than the initial contrasts made between him and the other...

(The entire section is 507 words.)