Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Several aspects of Garland’s style enhance the effect of the story, especially his use of details conveying the sense of sound. He captures the Ripleys’ simple but salty conversation and the squeaks of Mr. Ripley’s old violin. He vividly suggests the sounds of nature: the “rattling” of the snow, the “moaning” of the cornstalks in the wind. His eye for visual detail is equally proficient. As Jane Ripley struggles back home through the drifts, Garland describes the wind’s inflation of her skirt, which throws her off her track into the deep snow. Back home she must remove kettle marks from the tablecloth at home and the “splotches” of pancake batter with which her husband has clumsily decorated the top of the stove. Garland’s colorful imagery often emerges through the voices of his characters, as when Ethan is portrayed as the type of man from whose back troubles slide like “punkins off a haystack.”

Garland relates the stories of Main-Travelled Roads economically, and “Mrs. Ripley’s Trip” is the shortest and perhaps the most economical of the six. He is a writer who know what to leave out of his story as well as what to put in. Clearly wishing to keep the focus on the vicinity of the Ripley farm, Garland moves directly from the leave-taking scene at the depot to one in which a neighbor looks out her kitchen window and sees Jane Ripley walking back home from the station. Garland does not attempt to describe Ethan’s...

(The entire section is 401 words.)