Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The anonymous third-person narrator of this story is not omniscient; the only character whose mind the narrator enters is Eileen. As readers see the story through her eyes, they sense her struggles with her own jumbled emotions and ineptness at dealing fairly with Mark and Penny. O’Brien’s use of a third-person narrator with limited omniscience is ideally suited to her revealing the mind of a character who cannot see her own inability to forgive. It is through Mark and Penny that Eileen achieves a better understanding of herself. Through them, she has an epiphany, or moment of self-awareness, at the end of the story in which she views her place in the world with greater clarity than she ever has before.

O’Brien’s use of the epiphany in this way typifies twentieth century short stories, in which such moments of self-awareness often come swiftly, incisively, and usually at the close of the story. In this way, O’Brien uses several narrative devices—suspense among them—to build the story in several different stages.

The use of suspense in this story is not meant to be a sensational technique designed to deal out a clear “moral.” Suspense is created through the building of tension between the characters and the mirroring of that tension through the long day of absence and stormy weather. Although the reader is taken directly into the thought process of Eileen as she frets about Mark and Penny’s safety, the suspense that builds...

(The entire section is 533 words.)