Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although “Susanna at the Beach” focuses on a modern-day event and seems to feature realistic characters engaged in everyday activities, both the title and the style of the story suggest its parable nature. The story’s point of view is that of an anonymous observer who watches the events but does not place himself in the story. Because the narrator does not know the girl’s name, the only reason he gives her the name “Susanna” in the title is to identify her situation thematically with that of the beautiful and devout Jewish woman in the story of Susanna and the elders.

The style of the story is like a parable in that its single-minded focus throughout is on the meaning of the girl’s elevation above those people on the beach because of her devotion to her craft. Whereas the people on the beach are real and fleshly, the girl herself—although her body is an object of desire and envy—has no consciousness of the physical. Gold’s style makes it clear that her diving symbolizes her devotion to an idea: “The girl used herself hard, used her lightness hard.” Moreover, like Susanna in the story in the Apocrypha, the girl is the embodiment of innocence, not responsible that she is the object of fleshly desire. “Her innocence—an innocence of lessons—was informed by the heart and by the pressure of her blood.”

Gold’s language also makes it clear that what motivates the people on the beach is not merely physical desire and...

(The entire section is 500 words.)