Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Voice is the key element in this story. Told in the first person, it is a classic dramatic monologue, for Sam reveals who he actually is even though he is not self-aware. The tone of the story is flip and brittle, rambling and self-oblivious, often going for the laugh with clever queries about his desire for love. For example, at one point, he asks if loyalty and trust are “Under a rock? Inside a chocolate-chip cookie?” Also, when he describes his fascination and sense of possession about his girlfriend’s bottom, saying “That’s mine. It’s beautiful,” he then asks what a woman’s bottom can actually do for you: “Hide you from the police? Call up your boss when you don’t feel well?”

Sam constantly moves back and forth between his scornful comments about women, such as saying he likes to see them bark for him, to self-deprecating remarks about himself, wondering why girls ever go out with him. When he feels sexually aroused by thoughts of John, he feels queasy with the weirdness of it and calls himself bad and naughty, a dirty kitty-cat.

The reader is never quite sure whether to be scornful of Sam’s superficiality or to be sympathetic with his self-deprecation. The center of this reader indecision is, of course, Sam’s feelings about John. On one hand, his attraction to John seems an obvious implication of his ambiguous feelings about women, for he is narcissistically drawn to someone who does not pose a threat to him. On...

(The entire section is 476 words.)