Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The spare, economical style and the objective point of view that distinguish “The Ice House” are also found in many of Ernest Hemingway’s stories. Like Hemingway, Gordon presents her tale in a straightforward fashion: The author is unobtrusive, and the story appears to evolve and develop by itself. In How to Read a Novel (1957), Gordon labels this approach dramatic; she suggests that characters should be revealed by their actions as they respond to others and to the environment.

Therefore, because it exposes or displays characters, the environment assumes an enhanced position. Although the details and events in Gordon’s fiction are realistic, she invests objects with more than a literal significance because of their role in determining character. For example, in “The Ice House” the manner in which the characters view the bones of the dead soldiers is indicative of their moral stance.

In “The Ice House,” the details of the landscape and the use of dialect serve to re-create the atmosphere of the southern countryside, closely based on the Kentucky tobacco region of Gordon’s childhood. Because she evokes the South in her fiction, Gordon has been labeled a regional writer, implying a limited appeal, but although her setting is often the South, her themes are universal.