Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

There are a number of recurrent image patterns in the story that underline its themes and meanings. Romantic images of light and beauty are associated with Eden. The sun, the moon, and the stars are all connected with her, and her apartment is airy and full of light. Hedger, by contrast, is seen in terms of images of darkness. His apartment is dark and dingy and his desperate attempts to clean it up after he has met Eden are to no avail. He is also seen as living in a kind of fish tank, suggestive of the artist’s necessary isolation from the more active pursuits of life. Animal images add to this idea of isolation: Hedger is compared to a wolf and also to his dog Caesar.

The mythic dimension of the story is another significant aspect of Cather’s technique. As a kind of modern-day Venus, Eden Bower takes on an allegorical dimension, yet there are many ambiguities in this view of her. On one level, she transcends the triviality of her own individual nature and is certainly viewed with sympathy and even admiration by Cather. Similarly, Cather can mock Hedger because of his lack of interest in worldly things. However, Hedger remains the type of the true artist, while Eden, possessing both artistic talent and a powerful, almost superhuman, beauty that connects her to the world of myth, is perhaps not really an artist at all by Cather’s definition.