The Half-Skinned Steer Style and Technique

Annie Proulx

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story opens with a general overview of the history and lineage of the Wyoming family, then describes the particular events and ideas linked to the general opening. Proulx packs a lot of information into a short amount of space, but the background information allows for the themes to be carried out in a deeply meaningful way because readers can see and appreciate the biological and sociological connections inherent to the characterization and plot.

Proulx’s story makes infrequent but effective use of dialogue. There is some exchange between Mero and his niece, who informs him of Rollo’s death. There is also effective use of dialogue in the flashback memories when the narrator of those flashbacks converses with Mero.

Proulx’s use of flashback reveals a stream of consciousness within Mero, and it is strikingly effective for a story about an old man driving across country on such an occasion. People tend to recall things not frequently thought of when driving along and feeling the hypnotic rhythm of the tires meeting the pavement. This phenomenon is certainly accentuated when people are traveling to a funeral, where introspection and contemplation of one’s time and place in the world are significantly pronounced.

The author also uses the story-within-a-story technique (one story in the present and the other in memory), with the effect that one story foils the other. In the end, Mero’s unfinished business is not unrelated...

(The entire section is 501 words.)