Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The finest feature of Mei Mei Evans’s style is the realistic tone she deploys to underscore her theme of cultural dissonance. A wealth of details are provided to demystify and deromanticize the experience of going native. Through the narrator’s unblinking eyes, readers watch Mercy picking mosquitoes out of seal oil as she cooks, witness the debilitating effects of alcohol, see the saliva leaking from Mercy’s mouth after she has passed out, hear her snoring, rasping breath, see the stretch marks on her belly. These details reinforce the realistic treatment of the story’s themes, adding a tonal consistency to it. Even Lucy and Robert’s sexual encounter is treated more realistically than romantically, for it occurs in a half-remembered alcoholic haze.

Evans’s metaphors also heighten the realistic tone of “Gussuk.” For example, Mercy’s stretch marks are compared to “caterpillar-like trails,” while the alcohol that Lucy drinks is “surging against the front of her skull like surf.” From the air, the random cluster of houses “looked as though they’d been shaken out like dice.”

Sensory details evoke a strong, realistic sense of place. The immediacy of Kigiak is established through the sights, scents, and sounds that Evans captures—whether it is Lucy’s ears “vibrating with the drone of the plane,” “the cheap acetate curtains” of her “tacky” trailer, or the lopsided, “three-barred cross” atop the...

(The entire section is 410 words.)