Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story’s epistolary form offers Sayoko distance to put her experience in perspective and gives her privacy for serious reflection. The letter that she writes does not at first glance appear well organized. Its purpose is to report a dream to her husband, but she begins it by discussing her married life and her husband’s physical and emotional abuse. The epistolary form evokes an intense awareness of the audience addressed while at the same time preserving the interiority of the narrator’s stream of consciousness. The letter reveals how little the husband with whom she has lived so long knows of her life. Even her mother has never seen any of the misery, uncertainty, shame, guilt, or love that is revealed in the letter.

Although the structure of the letter initially appears chaotic, it is quite logical, even though the dream that is its declared subject is not described until very late. Meanwhile, by describing her husband’s familiarity with her mole and their conflict, the letter establishes context for him and provides the reader with an essential comprehension of the dream itself. Sayoko shows her husband how strongly she thought and felt and suffered as the result of his annoyance with her habit. She now sees that the habit of wrapping herself in her own arms absently was itself a defense against him, a form of self-protection.

The change of scene that occasions the letter also provides the perspective that Sayoko needs to...

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