Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Not a conventional story in any sense of the word, “Mr. and Mrs. Baby” is a work of fiction with little setting, plot, action, or characterization. These elements of writing do surface but are held at all times in a position of minimal importance: Mark Strand is concerned entirely with his theme—the blandness, circularity, and empty rituals of modern life.

What conflict there is in the story, and thus the matter that is of interest to the reader, is contained in the tension worked on the reader as he or she identifies with, or at least empathizes with, these two subreductive caricatures of life as we know it today. Strand does not create a story in which there is conflict within or among the characters; his characterizations cause internal conflict in the reader who must come to terms with just how close and accurate Strand is in his depiction of human experience.

Although Strand does not begin his story with “Once upon a time,” he does leave it with the same atmosphere such stories exhibit. The work is a parody of modern life, in which adults never grow up and those who have reached physical maturity remain, in the vein of parody, only babies. This is no fairy tale, though, for Strand’s message is too haunting, biting, satirical, and pessimistic to be rendered as such.

The story has a rather noteworthy absence of symbols and imagery. Once the reader realizes that Mr. and Mrs. Baby are the embodiments of contemporary...

(The entire section is 508 words.)