Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Through flashbacks and reminiscences provided by a first-person narrator, Mona Simpson shows a character growing from childhood to adolescence. Instead of simply telling a story, she provides scenes as vivid as snapshots. Melinda has only a vague idea of what her father looks like, but when she comes face to face with him, she describes him in realistic detail, noting his bald spot and even the way that his chin sticks out from his face. At times Melinda appears to be taking a mental picture of her father so that she can remember him. She watches him working in the restaurant, balancing dishes on the inside of his arm or standing at the candy counter buying Lifesavers. John’s casually dressed roommates form a picture as they lean on the iron banister of the porch to their apartment. These and other scenes are brief but vividly portrayed. Melinda describes how Jerry tries to impress her mother by doing a “t-stop . . . shaving a comet of ice into the air.” Jerry and Carol laughing at the stage exit, or skating under the spotlight, Carol twirling in Jerry’s arms—in these scenes Melinda is excluded. Taken together these snapshots tell the story of Melinda’s life.