Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The point in the story at which Giulietta seems to take control of her situation, her decision to advertise in the newspaper for the father of her child, may be considered one of its hinge points. It occurs roughly three-fifths of the way into this novella, but the reader has known since the story’s opening sentence the full content of the advertisement and Giulietta’s reason for writing it. In the same opening sentence Kleist manages in addition to tell the locale, the heroine’s social and family status, and her high reputation. It is a device at which he excels: the combined exposition and anticipatory revelation in such compressed form that it galvanizes the reader’s attention in order to learn what events could have prompted the lady’s unusual course of action—not to mention the source of her inexplicable pregnancy.

One would expect that a reply to her announcement in the paper will resolve the question of the father’s identity and disclose the details of the sexual encounter. By the time the respondent presents himself, however, his identity is no longer much in doubt, and the attentive reader has already noted enough hints of what occurred during Giulietta’s swoon to make any further account of it unnecessary. Instead of an answer and an explanation, Kleist sends the story off at once in another unexpected and baffling direction: The marquise refuses to accept the man whom her advertisement obviously describes. If one learns anything at...

(The entire section is 601 words.)