Gallant’s stories have been called an acquired taste, delicate constructions that seem to be artless vignettes rather than carefully patterned stories. Gallant’s characters do not seem significant in the large scheme of things, but as Gallant says in one of her essays, no life is more interesting than any other; what really matters is what is revealed and how.
As the number of expatriates in the world grows, writers are increasingly confronting the issue of cultural conflict. Marginal people, caught between native and adopted cultures, are currently the subject of much fiction. Mavis Gallant draws on her own experience in her native Canada and adopted France to depict characters caught in transit, people who are not only geographically, but psychologically and emotionally, aliens. More recently, she has explored the plight of post-World War II Germans. She has done so, however, in terms that cast as much light on the writing process as on her alienated characters.