Style and Technique
Meaning in “Beyond the Glass Mountain” develops out of the complex relationships between the characters and between the past and the present. Mark sees his college years with Mel as a Damon and Pythias affair—the allusion to the classical legend of the loyalty of two friends appropriately underlining the idealizing tendencies of Mark’s memory. As this ideal collapses under the stress of the present moment, it is the legend of the mountain man Jim Bridger hunting elk in Yellowstone that comes to Mark’s mind. The connotations of the wilderness and hunting—with their hint of alienation and even violence—suggest human relationships far from the ideal in the Greek legend.
Stegner uses quite different techniques to enrich the contrast between past and present. During Mark’s initial nostalgic awakening, the reader watches him literally “soak himself in the sensations he remembered,” the impressionistic images flowing from a man with the heightened sensibilities of a poet rather than a biologist. Later, at the Cottam home, Mark exposes an identity in his interior monologues quite at odds with the “civil” visitor who converses wittily with both Tamsen and Mel.
Indeed, talk is a major contributor to the dramatic tension that gradually emerges between Mark and Mel. The college talk into which the two drift—the caustic, sometimes ribald name-calling—is a code language that identified a camaraderie among young college strangers...
(The entire section is 489 words.)