Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Taylor’s artistry is subtle but powerful. “The Fancy Woman” communicates the themes of disintegration by its skillful use of the third-person limited point of view, its adaptation of grotesque elements from the gothic tradition, and its ironic portrayal of social nuances.

Limiting the point of view to Josie, an unintelligent and relatively inexperienced woman now out of her social element, Taylor severely restricts the readers’ knowledge about other characters’ motives. Josie maintains a hopeful view by grossly simplifying everything, especially human nature: “She’d find out what was wrong inside [George], for there’s something wrong inside everybody, and somehow she’d get hold of him.”

The narrative also reflects her weaknesses by what it omits; for example, no explanations or reflections concerning the strangers in her bed enter the narrative because Josie herself refuses to think about what she has done. The sight of George’s boys on the lawn reminds her of “a scene from a color movie, like one of the musicals”: She habitually perceives experience in terms of clichés—the only sources of comparison and judgment that she possesses.

The gothic elements are well disguised at first by the dark comedy of Josie’s ignorance and George’s callousness. Nevertheless, the vaguely dangerous man, the secretive servants, the isolated house, the mysterious guests, the night visitors to Josie’s room, the turning...

(The entire section is 451 words.)