Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The thematic content of “Deer Woman” is effectively reinforced by Allen’s style, which consists of a variety of elements including sensory detail, sardonic irony, metaphor, foreshadowing, and symbolism. The opening passage affords evidence of her use of effective sensory detail to create a sense of realism and give her setting a feeling of immediacy: “The slowly turning fan inside felt cool”; “They drove for some distance . . . bumping across cattle guards.” Her successful appeal to the senses creates an almost Faulknerian sense of place.

One of the finest features of the tale is its grim irony, as the would-be victimizers become victims of their own lust. Perhaps the most striking example of sardonic irony occurs when Ray wryly observes that this “is the only time I’ve heard of Little Red Riding Hood leading the wolves to Grandma’s.” In this, the story reinscribes the powerful Lakota Sioux myth of Buffalo Woman, who first brought the sacred pipe to the people of the Northern Plains, and exerted a similarly fatal allure on a young ’skin, whose lust she exploited to bring about his ruin. Allen writes in this same ancient, didactic, oral tradition, using myth to model good and bad Native American behavior, as the vehicle for constructing and disseminating a collective Indian ethos.

At times Allen weds sensory detail to alliteration and metaphor, thereby enhancing the verisimilitude of her writing. For example, she...

(The entire section is 456 words.)