Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In his numerous short stories and novels, DeMarinis often uses the spare, objective, and unemotional writing style that characterizes “Gent.” This postmodern technique is related to minimalism, though not as flat or as totally disconnected from feeling. “Gent” has a few metaphorical passages, such as Jack’s description of his mother as a little butterfly emerging from its cocoon and about to fly away, but for the most part, the writing style is a statement of fact, without subjective commentary. The reader is left to supply meaning and connections.

The ambiguous setting, given only as small town Far Cry, implies that similar situations could be happening anywhere. Likewise, using Jack as the first-person narrator not only reveals that he has learned to be unemotional about changes but also suggests that this is a position anyone could take toward an uncertain world. Jack often describes a scene or a person but seldom comments on what this might mean to him. There is very little dialogue, as though talking does little to change anything. The tone of the story is neither upbeat nor tragic, but more a simple and nonreflective report of what happens.

The plot of the story accords well with the style. Jack’s only stability has been his connection with his mother, a smoker who has had two marriages end with the suicides of her husbands and who turns to an older man for financial support. Jack reacts to this stoically, except for trying to feel older by wearing his new suit and taking up smoking. He observes his mother being wooed by a younger man clearly more like Jack’s father, but rather than think about that, he tells himself the Fourth of July fireworks display will begin soon.