Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The plot is linear, with most events presented chronologically. Houston uses small but significant details and well-chosen metaphors to create vivid pictures of the people and landscape of Montana. The narrator shares her situation with wry humor, behind which she may hide her vulnerability from herself but not from her reader.

Use of an unnamed narrator serves two somewhat contradictory purposes: First, telling the story in first person enables the author to speak to her reader in a chatty, conversational tone, much as a woman might share the story of her current relationship with a girlfriend, which gives the story a personal feeling. Second, it allows the author to hide information about her narrator, a device that emphasizes the narrator’s abdication of power in her life but also creates distance between narrator and reader.

Unlike the narrator, each of the men in the story—even Monte’s friends, who appear only briefly—is named, although only Monte is described physically. Little information is given about the narrator: The reader can guess that she is fairly short, but only because Monte is described as being much taller than she. Each of the other characters’ jobs is specified, but there is no information about what the narrator does with her life other than go on field trips with Homer, obsess about Homer when she is not invited to go with him, and daydream about a fantasy relationship.