Analysis

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 405

The stories in this collection demonstrate not only the wide range of Sturgeons psychologically oriented interests but also the range of his ability. Some of the stories included in E Pluribus Unicorn seem exploratory or allusive; all show his stylistic mastery. Sturgeons greatest weakness lies in creating satisfactory conclusions to...

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The stories in this collection demonstrate not only the wide range of Sturgeons psychologically oriented interests but also the range of his ability. Some of the stories included in E Pluribus Unicorn seem exploratory or allusive; all show his stylistic mastery. Sturgeons greatest weakness lies in creating satisfactory conclusions to his stories, a problem more obvious in his novels than in his shorter works. Still, some of these tales seem either hastily written or truncated, and many of them give the impression of being postmodern, requiring the reader to complete the tale. On the other hand, “The Silken-Swift” is rightly construed as a masterpiece both of literary elegance and behavioral analysis, as is “Biancas Hands,” though with entirely the opposite emotional impact.

Sturgeon taught himself and wonderfully employs the literary technique of using poetic meter in prose passages for emotional effect. This shows up most clearly in the fully accomplished works—“The Silken-Swift,” “Biancas Hands,” “A Saucer of Loneliness,” “The World Well Lost,” and “Die, Maestro, Die”—although it can be detected in virtually every story. It appears clear that Sturgeon derived the initial impetus from his observations of partial or inadequate responses to emotional and social problems. His observations inevitably led him to pose alternative, imaginative ways of dealing with (if not solving) these problems. The reader gets the feeling of looking over Sturgeons shoulder as he develops his personal motto: Ask the next question. In his later years, Sturgeon wore a silver Q with an arrow through it as a symbol of this motto.

In all these stories, Sturgeon clearly, analytically, and sympathetically delineates characters with some strengths and many weaknesses, showing the difficulties they encounter with an unsympathetic world (one especially unsympathetic to weaknesses or differences). His treatments of underground cultures, particularly that of homosexuals, likely influenced such writers as Samuel Delany and Harlan Ellison. Even when Sturgeons characters behave in desperate or unbalanced ways, they refuse either blame or rejection. Sturgeons stories clarify the terror of being utterly known, with nothing hidden. When he creates a deranged or desperate character, he tells the story from that characters own point of view, making the reader understand and, to an extent, sympathize. When he creates a character with warm, human sympathies, readers feel as though they have made a new friend. It is this characteristic of radical acceptance, of wise understanding couched in lyric prose, that readers gain—and appreciate—in Sturgeons stories.

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