The Final Proof of Fate and Circumstance Analysis

Lee K. Abbott

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The most compelling technique used throughout this story is the ingenious manner in which Abbott interweaves stories within stories within stories on three narrative levels. These levels also deepen character development and demonstrate the methods that Abbott uses to interconnect narratives. Textually, the story brilliantly illustrates the way the human imagination linguistically interweaves stories within stories, but it also shows that without stories, we cannot comprehend the meaning and significance of life itself. Equally important is the way Daddy’s narratives become Tyler’s. “The Final Proof of Fate and Circumstance” also illustrates how stories evolve and are passed down, and shows how Tyler adds details of his own to vivify his father’s stories and to make them his own. He has, indeed, become his father. Several allusions to the old song “Dry Bones” trace the interconnectedness of bones throughout the human anatomy and act as a chorus reminding us that we are mere flesh and bone without the human imagination. The unspoken allusion to the subject matter and theme of Wallace Stevens’s poem “The Emperor of Ice Cream”—that in the brutal face of death we revel in such delicacies as ice cream—becomes an intertextual connection not only to Stevens but also to a kind of poetry that reminds us of our mortality.

Abbott’s highly charged language also vivifies various narrative voices because this story is also about the ability of words to engage and reveal the reality of violence, loss, and death itself. Abbott’s language reverberates with the gorgeous specificity of Elizabethan playwrights and resonates with biblical rhythms and the masterful styles of such writers as John Cheever and Harold Brodkey. “The Final Proof of Fate and Circumstance” is a compelling story about the crucial connection between narratives and their power to create meaning and significance in an empty, existential cosmos.