Round by Round Analysis

Style and Technique (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The most conspicuous characteristic of this story is the unconventional use of plot. The central interest lies in the relationship between the reporter and his girlfriend, but they do not occupy center stage, they do not interact, and the relationship does not change from beginning to end. What changes is his consciousness of the relationship, and this change is brought about by his experience of the fight and his appreciation of the photograph. Through them, he gains an understanding of the roles of body and soul in human conflict, but that understanding brings him no closer to her.

Structurally, the story could be termed cinematic. Aiken cuts irregularly from one level of action to another, often in the middle of a paragraph. This allows him to depict what is proceeding in the reporter’s consciousness, to whom all these levels are present simultaneously. The opening of the story sets up this focus: The reporter states that it was a great fight, but he “wasn’t there”; yet the details show that he saw every second of it, even that he saw some things without registering them distinctly, such as the reactions in the crowd. He means that his attention was on something else: His body was involved, but not his soul. This technique reinforces the major themes: the difficulty of integrating body and soul in any human endeavor and the difficulty of transcending the natural tendency of all men to conflict.