Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The self-reflexive nature of “Fitting Ends” is suggested most strongly in the last paragraph when the narrator/protagonist says that at certain moments, everything seems clear to him, as if he could take all the loose ends of his life and fit them together as easily as a writer could write a ghost story in which all the details added up so that the reader knew the end even before the last sentence. At such moments, even though people know they will go on living, everything is summed up with “clarity and closure.”

The basic technique of the story reflects its theme, for Stewart recounts various anecdotes about his childhood in an effort to make them fit into a coherent story. In his contributor’s notes to The Best American Short Stories, 1996, in which “Fitting Ends” appeared, Chaon says that writing a story for him is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in which he writes hundreds of pages of fragments and puts them in a folder hoping they will “mate.” He says that he had a folder three inches thick full of jottings about the brothers Del and Stewart, and in other folders, he had notes about the grain elevator in the town of Pyramid, a mock ghost story of the True Ghost Stories type he loved as a child, and impressions of an essay about the Outward Bound program that one of his students wrote. When it came to putting these fragments together, he says he found it helpful to find inspiration in the works of others, such...

(The entire section is 447 words.)