Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

While he does provide glimpses into the mind of Louise, Dubus relates her story with a clinical objectivity similar to a case study of abnormal behavior, as the opening line, “Her name was Louise,” suggests. It is an appropriate style, for it keeps the reader emotionally detached from feelings of ridicule or pity. The flat narrative tone is designed to increase the reader’s understanding, to give one a series of sketches of Louise from high school, through college, to marriage and childbirth. Everything is narrated, and little, until the end, is dramatized, so the reader will reserve judgment until all the facts are in. It is only when one sees the confrontation between Louise and Richard toward the end of the story that one feels an accumulated pity for and understanding of the protagonist.

The story is told in three sections: Louise’s high school years, her college years and loss of weight, and her marriage to Richard. One might say, in fact, that because parts one and three show Louise as a fat girl, with the story of her thin self sandwiched in between, the construction of the story is a perfect illustration of the old adage, “Inside every fat person is a thin person trying to get out.”

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The Carter Years
Jimmy Carter was elected to the presidency in 1976. His administration faced immediate challenges: the American...

(The entire section is 507 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘The Fat Girl’’ is told chronologically and covers a period of seventeen years, which is unusual for a short...

(The entire section is 436 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1970s: In 1978, there are 1,130,000 divorces among the American population—or 5.2 divorces for every 1,000 Americans. This number...

(The entire section is 319 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

By the time Dubus wrote ‘‘The Fat Girl,’’ the concept of the ideal American family was changing. Increasing numbers of women exerted...

(The entire section is 199 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Andre Dubus’s ‘‘A Father’s Story’’ (1983) chronicles the story of a man who helps his daughter escape from the scene of a...

(The entire section is 155 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Baker, J. N, Review of Adultery and Other Choices, in Newsweek, December 5, 1977, p. 100B.


(The entire section is 145 words.)