Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In his first book of short fiction, Same Place, Same Things (1996), Tim Gautreaux distinguished himself from other southern writers in a number of ways. His stories, including “Same Place, Same Things,” are not concerned with members of the southern gentility or aristocracy, nor are they populated by the grotesques that appear in fiction by southern writers such as Flannery O’Connor and Erskine Caldwell. His stories instead focus on realistic characters dealing with realistic problems; even though Ada is a murderer (with possibly more than one victim), her needs and wishes are human and recognizable, as is Harry’s basic decency.

“Same Place, Same Things” also demonstrates Gautreaux’s sure hand with dialogue. Harry and Ada become living and breathing characters through their laconic and sparse spoken language; Gautreaux perfectly captures the idiom and vernacular of the deep South and the farm. The economical dialogue serves as a counterbalance to the poetic descriptions of the drought-ravaged Louisiana landscape.

In addition to the drought itself serving as a metaphor for lives barren and desolate, the pumps that Harry services serve as symbols for people’s hope that somehow life will provide a change for the better. Although Harry does not become the willing accomplice to Ada’s release from a life of drudgery, his affinity with machines and ability to fix any pump is still worthy of consideration. Harry is able to take a seemingly broken machine and repair it so that it may continue on indefinitely, just as he has taken the presumably shattered remnants of his past and forged a new life. Had Ada but learned to repair rather than destroy, perhaps she too would find that her life could be salvaged.