Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bell narrates “Finding Natasha” from a limited third-person point of view. The reader sees in the story only what Stuart sees, and encounters Natasha in the final scene in the same way that the protagonist does. Bell puts the reader inside the character of a recovering drug addict, so that one can thread one’s way through the dark places of his past exactly as he does. The story moves from the shadowy space of Henry’s bar in the first scene, with faces that Stuart cannot make out in the darkness, through the coldness of a New York winter, to the final light and breezy springtime scene in Washington Square. In the same way, Stuart moves from darkness, shadow, and emotional coldness, to sunlight and thaw. By finding Natasha, Stuart also finds himself.

On another level, the story is structured as fifteen short scenes, each representing a different level of Stuart’s awareness as he tries to recover the past. Friends have moved away or do not remember him; others such as Rita are ill from drugs; pimps such as Uncle Bill are dead; drug dealers such as Clifton are still dealing death; Tombo is pretending he is not addicted. The total picture is one of death, despair, hopelessness, and loss. All of this is told in objective, matter-of-fact prose that avoids both moralizing and condemnation. This is Stuart’s world, Bell tells us, the only one Stuart knows. By finding Natasha, he just may learn to live in it, without despair and without false hope.