Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This story is remarkable for its unusual point of view, moving back and forth from a third-person central intelligence to a first-person confessional. The effect suggests that sometimes the author speaks and sometimes Hattie. The authorial voice, although sympathetic, tends to be more objective, whereas Hattie’s voice is often lyric and subjective to the point of falsehood. Hence, the flickering point of view reflects Hattie’s own vacillation between honesty and self-deception.

When readers are in Hattie’s mind they find the world described in terms of simile and metaphor. For example, when Hattie is preoccupied with her dog Ritchie, the sofa cushions look like a dog’s paws. Life itself is a “hereafter movie” recording a person from birth to the grave. The camera angle is always from behind, suggesting that one cannot falsify this record. As one lives, there is less and less film available, and as one prepares to die, one must watch the whole film.

The story’s mixed chronology reflects Hattie’s thoughts in like manner. One leaps back and forth among different layers of the past, then ahead to the future, the reader’s confusion a strategic double to Hattie’s own perplexity.

The symbol of the house unifies a fiction that might otherwise seem as disjointed as Hattie’s mind. To Hattie the house symbolizes social position, achievement, and security. This meaning broadens when Hattie faces losing the yellow house, either by selling it to pay her medical bills or by dying and bequeathing it to someone. These are both ways in which she might have to “leave” the yellow house. In this sense, the material house becomes the outward sign of her tenuous hold on life.

Leaving the Yellow House Historical Context

A Prosperous Nation?
For many Americans, the 1950s was a decade of economic prosperity. Unemployment and inflation...

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Leaving the Yellow House Literary Style

Narration
‘‘Leaving the Yellow House’’ is told chronologically. The beginning of the story gives relevant...

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Leaving the Yellow House Compare and Contrast

1950s: An annual middle-class income ranges between $3,000 and $10,000 annually. More than 60 percent of Americans fall into...

(The entire section is 268 words.)

Leaving the Yellow House Topics for Further Study

How do you think Hattie will react to her situation the following day? Write a scene that could come at the end of the story, showing...

(The entire section is 184 words.)

Leaving the Yellow House What Do I Read Next?

Saul Bellow’s 1956 novella Seize the Day tells of a significant day in the life of down-and-out Tommy...

(The entire section is 215 words.)

Leaving the Yellow House Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Katz, Bill, Review in Library Journal, October 15, 1968, p. 3797.

Kiernan, Robert F.

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Leaving the Yellow House Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bradbury, Malcolm. Saul Bellow. New York: Methuen, 1982.

Braham, Jeanne. A Sort of Columbus: The American Voyages of Saul Bellow’s Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984.

Cronin, Gloria L., and Leila H. Goldman, eds. Saul Bellow in the 1980’s: A Collection of Critical Essays. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1989.

Cronin, Gloria L., and Ben Siegel, eds. Conversations with Saul Bellow. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994.

Goldman, L. H. Saul Bellow: A Mosaic. New York: Peter Lang, 1992....

(The entire section is 136 words.)