Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The primary stylistic technique for articulating these issues is the narrative voice of Jenny. Author Joan Didion has maintained that style is character; the same aesthetic tenet holds true in this story. Simultaneously hardened, scared, and hopeful, the tone with which Jenny tells her story actually creates the story. She stops herself when she thinks that she is off track; when she feels it is important to the story, she comments freely in a clipped, authentic teenage conversational manner replete with such believable verbal tics as the rueful, “I just know, OK, I’m not going to start fooling myself now. Please,” or, “He says they’re not going to do anything to the person who did it, right, wanna make a bet, they say they just want to know, but they’ll take it back as soon as you tell them.” On the other hand, out of Jenny’s own colloquial conversational style and experience comes an occasional sparingly lyrical perception that beautifully articulates her pain at feeling vulnerable, imprisoned, or apart, as well as her need to reach for a chance of happiness.

The narrator’s powerful autonomy moves her beyond the sentimentality one might be tempted to ascribe to someone who has lived through circumstances such as hers. This is achieved primarily through brilliant irony of tone that allows her to confess that she steals and lies. It is precisely because of her description of these behaviors, combined with the disjointed flow of time...

(The entire section is 424 words.)