Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Roses, Rhododendron” has a simple plot line. It begins in the first paragraph with a tense situation: Jane’s father has abandoned his family. The spirits tell Margot to take her belongings and her daughter and move. They follow this seemingly irrational plan, and the story unfolds. At the end, rather than a climax of action, the narrator slowly comes to realize what it all meant to her life. To add depth to this narrative, Adams writes with her characteristic understated language and adds the special technique of inserting her adult self into the story line using parentheses.

Adams uses only enough details to let the reader know there is emotion beneath the surface. In the scene where the Farrs quarrel, for example, she shows their reactions but does not detail the events that precede them. She mentions flowers frequently but does not describe colors and textures. The emotional undertones are implicit, which enhances the portrait of the Farr family, in which so much lies buried below the surface. Spare details also suit the character of Jane, who does not wish to look beyond appearances.

To comment on those things that a ten-year-old child would not realize, Adams inserts herself into the narrative with the use of parentheses. Adams also uses this technique to indicate places where Jane thinks something, but, in her attempt to be like the Farrs, does not want them to know. Sometimes, Adams inserts comments without the parentheses. The result is that the memory is richer because it is seen from several different points of view.

These techniques enrich Adams’s themes by emphasizing what is important in a woman’s life, the development that lies beneath the surface character. The undertones also enrich the symbolism of the two flowers, both of which are beautiful in different ways.