Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Because this is a dramatic monologue, Purdy uses several devices to involve the reader directly in the experience. Benny uses direct address as the story opens: “You aren’t the first man to ask me what I’m doing so long in the phone booth with the door to my flat open and all.” The reader is immediately involved in the situation and recognizes, almost at once, that he or she will be involved in what is about to happen, as a passerby is sometimes engaged by a stranger seeking alms of some kind. Like the monologuists who became staples of radio and television programs, Benny talks to the reader and to the unseen operator who may or may not be on the other end of the line. His voice is ceaseless; he hardly pauses for breath. Purdy lets the reader listen at first and then by the simple expedient of increasing the tone of desperation in Benny’s voice, forces the reader, almost against his will, to listen as the broken pieces of Benny’s life are spread out before him as on the linoleum floor of his flat. When the reader hears the anguish and discovers the pathos of Benny’s situation, he is no longer in such a hurry to use the phone because he knows that it is indeed an emergency call that Benny is attempting to place.