Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Beattie’s manipulation of narrative techniques made her one of the most recognized and original writers of the 1970’s, and “Imagined Scenes” gains much of its force from her preoccupation with narrative objectivity and the fragmentation of time’s flow.

There is a reportorial quality about the narrative voice that gives the story a very cool ambience. Events are related, but the internal world of emotions remains outside the narrative’s view except for what the old man and his sister tell about their feelings of anger, rejection, and powerlessness. With this as counterpoint, the narrator, with the objectivity of a camera’s eye, examines the interactions of the younger couple, who do not speak of their inner feelings. This technique effectively creates great emotion by making emotion’s absence so obvious. For example, when first describing the new neighbors, David tells her, “He’s very nice. Katherine and Larry Duane,” and never again does he refer to the woman. That the protagonist does not react to this omission makes her inner torment all the more clear. David touches his young wife only twice during the story: once “on his way out” to the Duanes’ house, and once (his cold cheeks sting her) coming back from the same place. Without consulting her, he gives their plant to the Duanes. He takes to making his own coffee and abandons other of their private rituals. When upset, he refuses to speak to her. The narrative records these...

(The entire section is 491 words.)

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

The Nixon Years and Watergate
In 1974, the year Beattie wrote “Imagined Scenes,” the United States experienced one of the...

(The entire section is 741 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Point of View
Point of view is the narrative perspective from which a story is told. Most common points of view include first...

(The entire section is 1157 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1970s: Richard Nixon becomes involved in the Watergate scandal, a burglary and cover-up that eventually leads to his resignation....

(The entire section is 174 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Sigmund Freud wrote extensively on the subject of dreams and of their usefulness in analyzing both individuals and literature. Read...

(The entire section is 250 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘Imagined Scenes’’ is included in a tape recording of Distortions, produced by Books on Tape, Inc., in December of 1979.

(The entire section is 19 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Beattie is often compared with Raymond Carver as a writer of minimalist short stories. Carver’s Where I’m Calling From (1988) is a...

(The entire section is 182 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Beattie, Ann, “Imagined Scenes,” in Distortions, Doubleday, 1976, pp. 54–63.

Epstein, Joseph,...

(The entire section is 271 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Centola, Steven R. “An Interview with Ann Beattie.” Contemporary Literature 31 (Winter, 1990): 405-422.

Friedrich, Otto. “Beattieland.” Time 135 (January 22, 1990): 68.

Hill, Robert W., and Jane Hill. “Ann Beattie.” Five Points 1 (Spring/Summer, 1997): 26-60.

McCaffery, Larry, and Sinda Gregory. “A Conversation with Ann Beattie.” Literary Review 27 (Winter, 1984): 165-177.

Montresor, Jaye Berman, ed. The Critical Response to Ann Beattie. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Murphy, Christina. Ann Beattie. Boston: Twayne, 1986.

Plath, James. “Counternarrative: An Interview with Ann Beattie.” Michigan Quarterly Review 32 (Summer, 1993): 359-379.

Schneiderman, Leo. “Ann Beattie: Emotional Loss and Strategies of Reparation.” American Journal of Psychoanalysis 53 (December, 1993): 317-333.

Young, Michael W., and Troy Thibodeaux. “Ann Beattie.” In A Reader’s Companion to the Short Story in English, edited by Erin Fallon, R. C. Feddersen, James Kurtzleben, Maurice A. Lee, Susan Rochette-Crawley, and Mary Rohrberger. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001.