Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Michaels uses the youthful but sophisticated voice of Phillip, dominated by his frenetic perceptions, to track his protagonist’s experiences from inside. Phillip, just emerging into adulthood, has been well schooled, but his still adolescent passions are out of control. Those of his girlfriend, Veronica, also smolder.

Michaels uses his characters’ names to imply some of the history behind the story. The names of Phillip and Veronica are the self-consciously cultivated choices of upper-middle-class parents who have aspirations for social elegance. Phillip was Alexander the Great’s father, and Veronica is the name of a flowering plant, but not your everyday rose, daisy, or lily. The veronica’s flower, rarely seen in common gardens, blossoms in showy blue spikes, and Veronica in the contemporary comic strip Archie is an elegant, rich, and sophisticated young woman, contrasted with the friendly accessible Betty.

Generally, Veronica is a rich person’s name. Phillip invokes a sophisticated sense of history. Such appellations and the fact that Veronica’s home is decorated with paintings by great artists constitute clear declarations of wealth, cultivation, and taste. However, the dangerous and uncontrollable passions that course through the young are no more constrained by wealth, cultivation, and taste than they are by caution, common courtesy, and clothes.