Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
“Nairobi” is told in the third person, but entirely from Ginny’s limited and rather self-centered point of view. The reader thus begins to discern what is going on in the story only gradually, perhaps not until after the second or third reading: that Oliver is getting the corporate leak that he wants and that it is indiscreet of Herbert to reveal.
This limited point of view serves to heighten the impact of the story’s broader concern—with innocence and its corruption. By foregrounding Ginny’s superficial preoccupation with clothes and the romance of the adventure (to the exclusion of any concern for that with which she is involving herself) and leaving unstated the obviously sinister implications of Oliver and his objectives, Joyce Carol Oates shows her protagonist to be a fool, willfully blind to the significance of what is going on around her. It is no wonder that, on descending in the elevator with Oliver after their meeting with Herbert and Marguerite, she “felt a pinprick of disappointment” in her disheveled (and symbolically significant) appearance, whereas Oliver had found her nearly perfect on their ascent in the same elevator. Ginny has lost more that she realizes—not merely her old shoes but also her integrity, a part of herself.
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Bender, Eileen Teper. Joyce Carol Oates: Artist in Residence. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views: Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
Cologne-Brookes, Gavin. Dark Eyes on America: The Novels of Joyce Carol Oates. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.
Creighton, Joanne V. Joyce Carol Oates: Novels of the Middle Years. New York: Twayne, 1992.
Daly, Brenda O. Lavish Self-Divisions: The Novels of Joyce Carol Oates. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996.
Johnson, Greg. Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Dutton, 1998.
Johnson, Greg. Understanding Joyce Carol Oates. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.
Wagner-Martin, Linda, ed. Critical Essays on Joyce Carol Oates. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979.