Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Not surprisingly, the “untrustworthy reality” of this story is captured in a style rich in social realism. With almost classical restraint, Calisher limits the time to one afternoon and evening in early August, the primary action to the meeting of Peter and Susan, and the primary place to Robert’s apartment. The action that would seem to demand center stage, the suicide, is presented only after the fact, as first Mario and then the young couple look out the window to see the body lying below.
The story is offered from Peter’s perspective; the reader learns of the others only what Peter knows about them or what they reveal about themselves in the course of the story. The homosexuality implied by Robert’s relationships with “young male students” is never stated; neither Peter’s nor Susan’s parents actually enter the story, although the reader learns much about Anne because the experience that drives her back to the sanatorium is fresh in Peter’s mind.
Most notably, as the title intimates, the story is conveyed by setting. Peter and Susan are products of urban America; even the suburbs seem to be out of their reach. Peter’s cousins at Rye can claim “the hot blue day, the sand, and the water, as if these were all extensions of themselves,” while Peter’s escapes from his mother’s Village reality have only been brief respites in boarding school, an abortive attempt to move uptown to Central Park West, and a stint in the...
(The entire section is 485 words.)
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