Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mistry’s style in “Condolence Visit” is concise and subtle, laced with irony and flashes of wit and humor. He uses a number of Parsi words and allusions to add local color to the story and to give it a peculiar atmosphere of a closed community that is struggling to hold on to its traditional rituals, language, food, and dress.

The plot of the story deals with the events of a single day from morning to evening in the life of its female protagonist. The events include both contemporaneous happenings and past incidents. Mistry employs the flashback technique to interrupt the temporal flow of the narrative to introduce earlier incidents recaptured through the protagonist’s memory. Consequently, the narrative moves back and forth in time, contributing to the loose and episodic structure of the plot. The apparent lack of compactness in the plot is to some extent compensated by Mistry’s adherence to the unities of time and place. The interplay of linear time and memory in the protagonist’s consciousness provides psychological coherence to the plot.

Mistry employs time and memory as structural devices to build his story. He uses clock time as well as the psychological view of time as continuous flow in an individual’s consciousness to indicate respectively the temporal and the spatial movement of the story. To suggest this time pattern, he carefully places a few signposts of recurrent symbols, such as the watch, the music, and the lamp flame. Daulat’s looking at her watch every time a visitor comes indicates the immediacy, the “presentness” of temporal action. Each time she thinks of music or looks at the lamp flame, her mind is transported back to the past, flooding her consciousness with memories.

Mistry’s skillful manipulation of a limited omniscient point of view allows him to bring the reader directly into Daulat’s inner consciousness, where the past is continually impinging on the present and reasserting itself through the mechanism of memory. Mistry uses memory not only as a structural device but also as a therapeutic device to heal the interior life of the female protagonist.