Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Beattie’s manipulation of narrative techniques made her one of the most recognized and original writers of the 1970’s, and “Imagined Scenes” gains much of its force from her preoccupation with narrative objectivity and the fragmentation of time’s flow.

There is a reportorial quality about the narrative voice that gives the story a very cool ambience. Events are related, but the internal world of emotions remains outside the narrative’s view except for what the old man and his sister tell about their feelings of anger, rejection, and powerlessness. With this as counterpoint, the narrator, with the objectivity of a camera’s eye, examines the interactions of the younger couple, who do not speak of their inner feelings. This technique effectively creates great emotion by making emotion’s absence so obvious. For example, when first describing the new neighbors, David tells her, “He’s very nice. Katherine and Larry Duane,” and never again does he refer to the woman. That the protagonist does not react to this omission makes her inner torment all the more clear. David touches his young wife only twice during the story: once “on his way out” to the Duanes’ house, and once (his cold cheeks sting her) coming back from the same place. Without consulting her, he gives their plant to the Duanes. He takes to making his own coffee and abandons other of their private rituals. When upset, he refuses to speak to her. The narrative records these...

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Imagined Scenes Historical Context

The Nixon Years and Watergate
In 1974, the year Beattie wrote “Imagined Scenes,” the United States experienced one of the...

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Imagined Scenes Literary Style

Point of View
Point of view is the narrative perspective from which a story is told. Most common points of view include first...

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Imagined Scenes Compare and Contrast

1970s: Richard Nixon becomes involved in the Watergate scandal, a burglary and cover-up that eventually leads to his resignation....

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Imagined Scenes Topics for Further Study

Sigmund Freud wrote extensively on the subject of dreams and of their usefulness in analyzing both individuals and literature. Read...

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Imagined Scenes Media Adaptations

‘‘Imagined Scenes’’ is included in a tape recording of Distortions, produced by Books on Tape, Inc., in December of 1979.

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Imagined Scenes What Do I Read Next?

Beattie is often compared with Raymond Carver as a writer of minimalist short stories. Carver’s Where I’m Calling From (1988) is a...

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Imagined Scenes Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Beattie, Ann, “Imagined Scenes,” in Distortions, Doubleday, 1976, pp. 54–63.

Epstein, Joseph,...

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Imagined Scenes Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Centola, Steven R. “An Interview with Ann Beattie.” Contemporary Literature 31 (Winter, 1990): 405-422.

Friedrich, Otto. “Beattieland.” Time 135 (January 22, 1990): 68.

Hill, Robert W., and Jane Hill. “Ann Beattie.” Five Points 1 (Spring/Summer, 1997): 26-60.

McCaffery, Larry, and Sinda Gregory. “A Conversation with Ann Beattie.” Literary Review 27 (Winter, 1984): 165-177.

Montresor, Jaye Berman, ed. The Critical Response to Ann Beattie. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Murphy, Christina....

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