Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Without a doubt, Cortázar has one of the most kindly authorial personas in modern literature. An analysis of that benignity, on whose convincing portrayal the story’s success is greatly dependent, reveals three chief components: colloquial diction, intimacy with the reader, and self-deprecating humor. The illusion of a spoken rather than a written text is achieved by the first-person narration through the frequent use of diminutives (which are extremely common in spoken Spanish) and slang (especially with respect to nationalities: Nicas, Ticos, and Gringos for Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, and Americans, respectively). The reader’s confidence is gained principally through direct address (“You’re probably saying I’m boiling over with false modesty, but let’s face it, old man”), and by means of the “vos” (a very familiar form of the second-person singular pronoun that is archaic in mainstream Spanish but still current in Argentina, among other places). In addition to several humorous asides along the way and a confession of incredible naïvete where Polaroid cameras are concerned, the author makes himself the butt of his own joke at the conclusion. He confides to the reader his temptation to ask Claudine if she did not see a picture of Napoleon on horseback, in essence a confession of the absurdity of his situation vis-à-vis his companion.

A fourth ingredient in the author’s winning repertoire, no less significant but certainly more...

(The entire section is 470 words.)