Style and Technique
The most characteristic element of style in this story is the presence of the unnamed narrator, who characteristically reflects Cheever’s comments on the events of the narrative in the wry, compassionate, and detached way of a sympathetic observer; much of the appeal of Cheever’s stories derives from his perceived relationship with his readers, available through such a fictional presence.
The story is divided between the rather flat, dour pronouncements delivered by Lawrence and the rich, sensuous counterpassages of the narrator. As Lawrence, for example, calls Odette a promiscuous woman, the narrator describes her in sensual detail, noting the roundness of her shoulders and the whiteness of her skin. Similarly, at the conclusion of the costume party, the guests rescue the floating white balloons from the sea while Lawrence laments the partygoers’ foolishness. The lushness of the prose that Cheever employs when describing the smells, the sounds, and the contentment of the narrator’s life among his family strikingly contrasts not only with Lawrence’s gloom but also with his matter-of-fact language. The sense of possibility of the former overshadows the finality of the latter.