Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The most effective stylistic tool used in this story is that of contrast. The story abounds with comic episodes, so that by contrast the one solemn and emotional scene during the confirmation ceremony becomes even more stirring and significant. There are also frequent juxtapositions of religion and prostitution throughout the story. The brothel is located behind a church with a view of the chapel dedicated to the Virgin; the night lamp that burns outside the brothel is compared to a sanctuary lamp in a church. The journey motif, which allows the plot to unfold in two locales, provides further examples of contrast. The fragrant air and religious silence of the countryside are in direct opposition to the damp and noisy atmosphere of the town.

Dramatic irony is also very much present. The first situation involves the innocent villagers, who are unable to recognize prostitutes when they see them and thus treat the far-from-innocent visitors with solemn deference. The second instance takes place during the scene between Constance and Rosa. The child, unaccustomed to sleeping alone, begins to cry. Rosa comforts her and brings the innocent child to her bed, where she showers her with great displays of affection, until the child falls asleep on her bosom. During the religious ceremony itself, the assembly of God, led by the priest, and the assembly of prostitution, led by Madame Tellier, are momentarily united during an emotional moment, which gives these women a human dimension and provides psychological insight into their feelings and emotions. Their fond recollections are in direct contrast to their present lives. The effect produced by counterposing religion and prostitution is that each loses its negative stereotype and the two unite in a moment of psychological and emotional affinity.