Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The most significant stylistic device that Minot uses in this story is the narrative and structural “picture” segments. The movement in perspective from a close view of Kraft’s present moments to a more distant view, in which the reader and Kraft see his life from afar, is not only described by the narrative voice, it is made a structural part of the story, doubly emphasizing this remove. These distant views are introduced by the italicized label “picture.” These markers jar the complacency and mood of the story, just as the pictures jar Kraft’s complacency and mood, making him unable fully to live and experience his life.

Significantly, Minot’s story begins where the river, that archetypal symbol of the passage of time, joins the sea, which is the archetypal symbol of the source and end of all life. It is also significant that the point of view shifts ever so slightly, maintaining a stance that is sometimes close to Kraft and his own perspective and feelings, sometimes distant. In the opening “pictures” the perspective has an almost objective stance, describing a boathouse and the couple standing next to the boathouse.

The focus and the language move in until one realizes that the man in the second “picture” is Kraft himself. As the reader nears this protagonist, Kraft too comes closer to himself, first viewing himself from a distance and then slowly stepping inside his own skin and mind. He becomes conscious of being the actual person in the picture that he seemed to see from beyond, gaining an awareness of himself, his surroundings, his companion.