Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Gallant’s writing style is transparent, a straightforward style that ultimately has the power of journalism. What she says rings true, and the direct way in which she says it reflects the seemingly uncomplicated course of her characters’ lives. A closer look reveals artful manipulation of the reader’s responses and a clever use of simple language to reveal complex and conflicting emotions.

Gallant uses limited third-person narration to interesting effect. The story is told through the eyes of Emma, the teenaged daughter, whose powers of observation have been sharpened during long spells of living exclusively in her mother’s company. Seeing things from her point of view allows the reader to see Mrs. Ellenger as the shallow person she is, as if there would be no point in going inside her head anyway. It also allows one to appreciate the subtle, compassionate, maturing sensibilities of Emma herself, whose head is clearly worth going inside.

Through Emma’s eyes, readers see, or so it seems, all they need to see, and come to appreciate the fact that Mrs. Ellenger is not an evil person, or even a particularly mean one. She is simply self-absorbed and thoughtless; the pain that she causes others is unintentional. It is still pain, however, and that is what Emma cringes in the face of.

Gallant uses symbolism so skillfully that it never intrudes. The chief symbols in this story are the enamel bracelet and the toy tiger. The...

(The entire section is 541 words.)