Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The first part of Mary Ellen Ponce’s story utilizes an omniscient narrator who reveals Petra’s inner thoughts; it then switches to a more distant narrator who presents the characters only through their outward appearances, behaviors, and dialogue. The story is more successful in its latter part, in which the characters’ behaviors are allowed to contrast with what they say and how they act. This dramatic irony leads the reader to infer the story’s central themes, rather than spelling them out.

A rather strained coincidence sets the story’s plot in motion: Petra, who supposedly has never smoked marijuana, found a marijuana cigarette on the patio only a week earlier; she saved it instead of throwing it away but then totally forgot having done so. After this contrived opening, however, the story flows more smoothly, with its various incidents proceeding in a more organic fashion.

“The Marijuana Party” does not emphasize its setting, either as to place or time. Petra’s musing about cutting her hair with bangs, because “bangs make me look younger. Like Mamie!” allude to Mamie Eisenhower—the First Lady of the United States from 1953 to 1961. The police officer is concerned that the odor he smells may come from trash burning in an incinerator, which had been “banned in 1958, or thereabouts.” These references suggest that the story could be set around 1960; however, other references—such as the allusions to “movies” that...

(The entire section is 413 words.)