Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Though the deeper implications of this story are grim and unsentimental, the style is light, sometimes humorous, and perceptive about childhood experience. After all, no one really expects children to be especially angelic. When Irmgard is asked if she still likes Freddy now that Bradley is here, she offers some rationalization that even she suspects is not adequate:“Oh, I still like Freddy, but Bradley’s my cousin and everything.” This is a good answer. She has others, such as, “I’m English-Canadian only I can talk French and I’m German descent on one side.” (Bradley is not required to think of answers, he is American. . . . ) Irmgard’s answer—about Freddy—lies on the lawn like an old skipping rope, waiting to catch her up. . . . “I like Freddy,” Irmgard said, and was heard, and the statement is there, underfoot. For if she still likes Freddy, why isn’t he here?

Nevertheless, at this stage of limited sophistication, Irmgard is only subliminally aware of moral or emotional implications. Although Freddy is forgotten for a while, Irmgard becomes convinced that she has left something behind in Montreal. She goes over her personal belongings to see what is missing, even getting up in the night to see if her paint box is still there. Not until Bradley leaves does she account for this unexplained vacuity as Freddy’s absence.

Mavis Gallant is especially perceptive about this limited or selective awareness that makes...

(The entire section is 555 words.)