Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The first fictional technique to observe in the story is the use of a secondary character, one of the daughters who is not named, as the narrator. She tells the story in the first person and is obviously a close part of the main character’s struggle, but she can be far enough removed so as to judge her character and her claim to “happiness.” She is an observer of her mother’s life and her forcefully declared way of living, so the reader sees her mother primarily through the daughter’s eyes and her judgments.

Another technique that Mary Lavin uses is to place the story in a middle-class, Roman Catholic setting in Ireland, a society that typically pays less attention to this world and more to one’s eventual salvation. Father Hugh, for example, clearly rejects Vera’s demand that it is in this world that she has her hard-won happiness. However, she is opposed to placing flowers on the altar, since “God made them for us.” She has no thoughts about the afterlife with which a Roman Catholic should be concerned. Furthermore, when she is faced with death and the possibility of that afterlife, she is terrified. She lacks the faith that seems to govern Father Hugh’s life.

Characterization is one of the most important fictional elements in the story. The characterization of Vera is exuberantly imperative in her constantly urging others to pay attention to her views: “Take me,” or “Take Father Hugh.” She challenges people that...

(The entire section is 512 words.)