Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrative line of Adams’s story is relatively simple and contained, smooth and symmetrically balanced in both development and resolution. There is little exposition and little need for any. Conflicts rooted in relational issues are presented, then resolved. Other issues then arise on a deeper level and are worked through by the time that everyone retires for the night.

The point of view that Adams uses, however, is more complicated. Her characters do not speak to one another during much of the story. They are alone on the trail, skiing single-file, each in turn rehearsing private worries through internal dialogue. Adams allots roughly equal time to all four characters, and each one is sympathetically presented. Their conversations occur when they gather over a meal, enabling them in a direct way to resolve nagging issues that had been silently plaguing them. In both the picnic setting in the glade and at the rented cabin over supper, food and drink provide the opportunity for securing emotional well-being.

For the most part, the characters discover that their fears are groundless because they are all well-meaning people who desire to get along with one another. While not all their private fears are completely played out in subsequent conversation, enough headway is made so that all can at least get a good night’s sleep. The exception is Rose, about whom less information is given than for the other characters, and who has the lowest self-esteem. Still, when the storm awakens her, she takes comfort in the proximity of Susannah’s familiar back, and the reader is left with the impression that even the most troubled individual can be psychologically redeemed through human companionship.

Adams’s style is direct and economical. She may not reveal all readers wish to know about any individual character, but her condensations and distillations allow readers to intuit those vital connections between situation and character that reveal the complexities of modern life. Little happens, yet much is revealed. Critics have compared her spare, clear language with that of Ernest Hemingway, her focus on private emotions with that of John Cheever, and her elegance and poignancy with that found in F. Scott Fitzgerald.