Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Johnson’s use of the second-person narrator is a distinctive stylistic element. The narrative style, both linear and circular, affects the construction of the plot. The narrator is an alter ego or countervoice that both defines and informs the central character. Certain phrases are used to sustain ambiguity, to challenge the reader’s conception of the main character.

Although the action is based on the act of viewing a film, this act becomes the locus for additional smaller narrative segments. When the man begins watching the film, the narrator presents a brief narrative involving the man’s personal life, especially his relationship with his wife. This segment returns to the main story line. The looping of smaller narratives is part of Johnson’s technique.

The setting is conceived as the interior landscape of the mind, and some of the characters are possibly imagined. The complexity of sentence structure replicates mental processes of recollecting and imagining. The absence of dialogue results from the emphasis on narrative perspective.