Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Capote likes to deal in ambiguity. A favorite technique of his is to introduce a bizarre element into an ordinary scene or story and let it fester. Miriam is such an irrational element, one that can intrude on an orderly life for no apparent reason, the capricious agent of diabolical fate, blithely defying one’s insistence on rational explanations.

Another irrational element in the story is the deformed old man who stalks Mrs. Miller while she is on her shopping spree. Whoever he is, he serves as a catalyst in the story, propelling it to a harrowing conclusion where all the bizarre elements unite to push Mrs. Miller over the edge. It is not until Miriam mentions having lived with a very poor old man that Mrs. Miller finally breaks down and runs for help, for she knows intuitively that it must be the same old man. This means that both he and Miriam can only be figments of her imagination—demons of her deepest dreads.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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Garson, Helen S. Truman Capote: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1992.

Plimpton, George. Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

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