Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The first-person narrator begins by explicitly detailing her sexual encounters. She recounts each rendezvous more like a grocery list than an emotionally charged account of an erotic past. The bland delivery is demonstrative of the narrator’s attempt to emotionally distance herself from what has occurred. She wants these fifteen encounters to be “no big deal”; she is mimicking, it appears, a male voice, trying for the nonchalance and bravado that a young man would have as he recounted his sexual conquests. The style is revealing but not introspective.

Despite intentions to remain emotionally removed from her story, the narrator subtly moves into self-reflection. She is searching and, at the same time, languishing in sorrow. This more honest tone takes over the story as her mood becomes confessional, revealing pain and loneliness rather than a flat recounting. Minot wants readers to see that for this unhappy narrator, self-awareness follows and is a consequence of impetuous, self-damaging actions.

The plot follows conventional methods. The characters are skillfully delineated in the exposition; the central conflict lies within the narrator herself as she uses her body to gain intimacy and only later realizes that this supposed sexual freedom is, in fact, exacting a heavy price. The reader is taken steadily toward a moment of truthfulness, when the narrator finally reveals just how lonely, used, and tired she feels. The story ends abruptly, and not with a denouement that satisfies and leaves one believing she will get better. Readers are left wondering if she has learned enough from what she has revealed to understand that her actions are self-destructive and there is a need for change.