“A Father-to-Be” typifies Bellow’s colloquial, ironic, humorous style. The language and tone of the story are distinctly casual. Accuracy of observation is heightened by a crisp directness that seems informal. The scene in the delicatessen, for example, is presented with an economy of detail, but those details are precise and rendered in language uncluttered by a literary tone.
Bellow is a realist, but his realism is tempered by irony and understatement. The scene in the subway is richly detailed, but the odd, almost bizarre pictures of the passengers are presented in such matter-of-fact language that their oddity is seen as natural, even ordinary. The humor of the dream sequences, and in the final scene when Rogin submits to Joan’s blandishments, is achieved largely by Bellow’s careful use of understatement, a technique by which Rogin’s conflict is blunted, his anxiety defused, and which emphasizes in the end his role as victim and sufferer.