Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story is shaped by the first-person perspective of the unnamed narrator. Suggesting the depressed sensibility of one who has been wounded or abandoned, this disenchanted perspective is the ground of “The Cinderella Waltz.” Every character and situation is filtered through this tone of voice, which is flexible enough to include both ironic humor and deep sadness.

Another important aspect of Beattie’s style is its economical understatement. Presenting her material in a low-key and even offhand series of episodes, Beattie requires the reader to draw emotional inferences that are not at first obvious. Satiric and detached, Beattie’s narrative style is a counterpoise to subject matter that might be expected to induce more expressive and obvious emotion. This cool, quiet style is reinforced by Beattie’s structure, which consists of a series of loose, episodic vignettes that seem to be composed of little more than an accretion of seemingly casual events, conversations, or observations. However, what seems an unconstructed, drifting narrative is in fact organized around details that are there for very specific and telling purposes. Details such as Louise’s attachment to the bleak Samuel Beckett play or Milo’s repainting his apartment stark, minimal white, allow the reader to draw wider inferences about character and situation. Perhaps the most important of these details is the image of the glass slippers mentioned at the end of the story—this image returns readers to the title of the story and serves to consolidate the Cinderella theme as a crucial one. Placing this image at the end of her story intensifies its impact and reminds readers to reflect on its meaning and the meaning of her title. In addition, Beattie’s careful placement of the image of Milo and Louise riding euphorically up into the air in a magical glass elevator as the story’s last sentence further develops the Cinderella theme, while touching once again on the resonant issue of disappearance, flight, and abandonment. What at first might appear to be a casual string of episodes is gathered into a final, unifying depiction of this story’s two themes, that of Milo’s world of magical escape and the listless depression of a discarded Cinderella whose romantic expectations have been dashed.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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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.

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