Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Beattie, like other postmodernists, writes many of her short stories in scenes, rather than in a straight narrative. “Jacklighting” is written in six: the first, third, and last scenes present information from the narrator’s point of view; the remaining scenes function more dramatically because of their inclusion of dialogue and action between characters. Quite tellingly, there are dramatic scenes between the narrator and Pammy and the narrator and Spence, but not between the narrator and Wynn—the man to whom she is supposedly closest.

One effect of writing in scenes is fragmentation. Each scene functions as a separate (and on one level complete) piece that, when placed with the other pieces, makes up the whole story. No matter in what order the pieces are placed, the reader must make a transition in time and space between them. Furthermore, simply because the reader must make these transitions, it is inferred that there are other fragments—other unwritten pieces—between the scenes. Ultimately, the fragmentation of the story’s form complements the fragmented lives of the story’s four characters.