Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

It has been pointed out that although “The Little Wife” was one of March’s earliest works, in it he already displays the technical skill of a far more experienced writer. For example, the story is constructed as two parallel narratives. One of them is the actual journey, a train trip that takes almost exactly five hours. The other is Joe’s account of his involvement with Bessie, which is told during the train trip, but goes back to their meeting and ends with their planning for the new baby. When the journey ends, Joe’s narrative stops. However, as long as he is still on the train, he does not bring his story up to the present. Only when he is off the train, his journey concluded, does he admit that his love story, too, has ended.

March’s handling of point of view is also highly effective. At first, it seems that the story will be told totally from Joe’s perspective. Interspersed with Joe’s thoughts are his observations about his surroundings, for example, the overwhelming heat and the ineffectual fan, as well as his impressions of the nearby passengers. Not until Joe returns from the back of the train and begins his story does the narrative voice change. At this point, the author begins to present Joe’s account as a third-person summary, a tactic that enables March periodically to insert objective comments, noting, for example, how excited Joe appears to his audience and how bored the other passengers are becoming. When the girls get...

(The entire section is 407 words.)