Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sylvia Foley heightens Iris’s psychological state by focusing on details in the environment that reflect the new mother’s mental state, such as black crows, the blue stamps on library books, and her neighbor’s gold rings flashing in a mirror. Her world comes to her in fragmentary details, shards of significance that reflect her own sense of hopelessness and disconnection from Daniel, her baby, and ultimately her environment. For example, an overlooked package of meat in the carriage next to her daughter Ruth makes it appear to Iris that the child and the pork loin are the same. Iris imagines that Daniel’s flesh would turn gray like the meat if it were pressed. She becomes disconnected even from herself, drifting into a wine-induced haze, seeing her hands as birds, and feeling her feet float away. When she beckons Daniel to join her on the rooftop, his response is to ask whether she has lost her mind. In return, her vision sharpens, and she sees only his gray teeth and pervasive grayness.

Her maternal instinct also blurs. As Ruth gnaws on the package of pork loin forgotten in the carriage, Iris appears unconcerned and focuses on the child’s bubbled lips, providing an image, and connection, that returns at the end when the bubbles in the tar pit looked like little mouths. Paradoxically, the blurred distinctions reflect Iris’s increasing disconnection as well as her mental deterioration and emotional withdrawal from her husband and child. A wall...

(The entire section is 549 words.)