Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Irving Howe, introducing an anthology entitled Short Shorts (1982), claimed that in very brief stories (“In the White Night” is little more than two thousand words long) “situation tends to replace character, representative condition to replace individuality.” Indeed, the reader knows very little about Carol and Vernon and much less about anyone else in the story. The reader knows, for example, how many bedrooms the house has, but not what Carol and Vernon do for a living or what color their eyes are or what political views they hold, if any. Beattie has presented Vernon and Carol as individuals who think of themselves as parents though they do not seem to have any children, and thus the spaciousness of their house, a seemingly insignificant detail, conveys a powerful emotion. Their relationship with the Brinkleys is to a large extent controlled by the contrasting fates of two daughters: What can or cannot be talked about, as well as what is talked about, inevitably finds a referent there. In the context of the evening portrayed, the same might be said of Vernon and Carol’s relationship with each other. The vacuum left by Sharon’s death is the center of these lives. In this way, the story deals with types rather than individuals (Vernon’s mental gymnastics to promote optimism and Carol’s emphasis on visual and emotional connections remind one of male and female stereotyping), but its use of ambiguous characterization instills a mystery about...

(The entire section is 516 words.)

In the White Night Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Centola, Steven R. “An Interview with Ann Beattie.” Contemporary Literature 31 (Winter, 1990): 405-422.

Friedrich, Otto. “Beattieland.” Time 135 (January 22, 1990): 68.

Hill, Robert W., and Jane Hill. “Ann Beattie.” Five Points 1 (Spring/Summer, 1997): 26-60.

McCaffery, Larry, and Sinda Gregory. “A Conversation with Ann Beattie.” Literary Review 27 (Winter, 1984): 165-177.

Montresor, Jaye Berman, ed. The Critical Response to Ann Beattie. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Murphy, Christina. Ann Beattie. Boston: Twayne, 1986.

Plath, James. “Counternarrative: An Interview with Ann Beattie.” Michigan Quarterly Review 32 (Summer, 1993): 359-379.

Schneiderman, Leo. “Ann Beattie: Emotional Loss and Strategies of Reparation.” American Journal of Psychoanalysis 53 (December, 1993): 317-333.

Young, Michael W., and Troy Thibodeaux. “Ann Beattie.” In A Reader’s Companion to the Short Story in English, edited by Erin Fallon, R. C. Feddersen, James Kurtzleben, Maurice A. Lee, Susan Rochette-Crawley, and Mary Rohrberger. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001.