Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Style is especially important to this story, for without Bass’s poetic descriptions, his rhythmic prose, and his suggestions about the mythic significance of the experience, it would be merely an interesting anecdote, depending solely on the unusual nature of the frozen, waterless lake. The opening paragraph, by repeating the reference to the color blue and the fictional metaphoric phrase “as if,” sets up the entry into the fairy-tale world. This “as if” metaphoric quality also is used to refer to Ann’s transformation of the dogs from wild and unruly pups into well-trained hunting dogs, “as if” they are rough blocks of stone with their internal form existing already, waiting to be chiseled free. If the training is neglected, they have a tendency to revert to their old selves, “as if” the dogs’ greatness can disappear back into the stone.

Although often metaphoric, Bass’s style is not flowery, but rather simple and straightforward. He does not tell the story in Ann’s words, but rather has the narrator retell it, thus filtering the story through two points of view. Neither Ann nor Gray Owl talk much during their experience, and when they do, it is in the simple straightforward language of people reduced to basic states. In telling Ann about the lake, he says, “It’s not really a phenomenon; it’s just what happens.” When she asks if he knew it would be like this, he says, “No. I was looking for water. I just got lucky.”...

(The entire section is 476 words.)