Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Girl on the Plane” uses a third-person limited point of view to relate its story. Morton’s thoughts and impressions are the only ones to which the reader has immediate access. Other characters’ attitudes and beliefs are given indirectly, through occasional dialogue. Both Loraine and Patty try to talk to John about their lives, but they both acknowledge that they do not really understand why they are doing what they are doing. Mainly, the reader has to study Morton’s viewpoint and what Morton sees according to his set of values and decide whether to infer different meaning for the events from the explanation that suits him.

When Morton watches Patty having sex with a series of men, he perceives her as enjoying the experience. Although he recognizes that she appears restless and disturbed, and he realizes she does not quite seem to inhabit her body while he has sex with her, he is unable to recognize that she must be too drunk or drugged to be a fully willing participant. Despite perceiving that Patty’s body feels as if it might come apart, he still sees their sex as the tender moment Patty had earlier wanted. Gaitskill refuses to paint this scene in a clear, easy-to-decide fashion either: Morton sees Patty one time after this rape, and she is holding hands at a concert with the first man Morton had watched having sex with her, back at the party.

The story is also structured in a fashion that comments on the problem of...

(The entire section is 404 words.)