Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Schorer tells this story entirely in a straightforward manner. There are few surprises, no startling character revelations, no unexpected twists of the plot, and no deep symbols on which the meaning rests. The action moves slowly through the summer afternoon, carried forward primarily by dialogue, description, and details. Every aspect of the story is deceptively simple because nothing much seems to be happening. In fact, little is happening, except to Will, who is learning a great lesson of how to get on in life, as well as what love is all about. What he learns is that it is all a matter of coming to an end and that one must be prepared to live through life by experiencing and accepting a series of returns to what he calls “aloneness.” His effort in life is to get through these relationships—to exit from them—“somewhat less empty, less deadly calm.”

Schorer’s message is directly connected to his style of writing. The repetition of short, simple sentences (most of the story is dialogue between Will and Rachel) reveals and accents the thoughts and feelings of the two main characters. Their simple thoughts about love are expressed in simple sentences using only basic vocabulary. To reinforce this technique, the author’s third-person omniscient voice replicates it. That is, the characters both speak and are spoken of in the same manner and toward the same effect. The emptiness and calmness of Will’s existence at the end of the story are described in language that not merely reflects but enhances the emptiness and calmness of life.

Another effect of this simplicity in syntax and vocabulary is that the two lovers are depicted not as children—but as childlike. They foolishly believe that their feelings are complex, that they know things about each other and about love that others have not known or experienced before. Their conversation, however, proves them to be not unique but mundane. The tone of their talk and of the story itself exhibits the banality and blandness of real life in the modern world, a place where love is not and cannot be accomplished—but can only be lived through until arrival at its newest, most recent, advent of death.