Tobias Wolff is perhaps best known by the American reading public for his memoir This Boy’s Life, which was later made into an acclaimed movie, but his literary reputation was first established on the merit of his short stories. He is still primarily known for these short stories, in which he depicts many characters’ voices and a wide range of emotions. Since the early 1980s, Wolff has produced several collections of short stories. These fictions focus on the important relationships and the moral choices in everyday people’s lives: men and women, husbands and wives, parents and children. As scholar Marilyn C. Wesley writes in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Wolff writes ‘‘about the basic needs of Everyman, written with a respect that Everyman deserves.’’
Wolff has often been likened to other writers of his generation such as Raymond Carver and Richard Ford. In his short stories, Wolff practices a direct, even nondramatic, style of writing. This is certainly the case in his story ‘‘Say Yes,’’ which takes as its backdrop an average evening in the life of a married couple. When the conversation delves into an issue on which the couple do not agree, the relationship experiences a newfound rockiness. The husband’s reaction to this argument demonstrates the secret undercurrents that run through relationships.