My Side of the Matter

by Truman Capote

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Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 406

One must look, therefore, to style as the paramount achievement of this story; its sustained colloquial dialect, which reveals so much about the limitations of character, cultural background, education, and expectations of the speaker. The protagonist reveals his ignorance and inflated opinion of himself, for example, by periodic reminders of his “perfectly swell position clerking at the Cash ’n’ Carry.” The story is appropriately adorned with trite phrases, such as “really takes the cake,” “a drop in the bucket,” and “if the shoe fits, wear it,” but it also sports some variations on conventional phrases, such as Marge’s description of her husband as “free, white, and sixteen.”

The old ladies, however, have a comic way of garbling conventional wisdom: “Don’t think you can pull the sheep over our eyes,” says Olivia-Ann, and “We weren’t born just around the corner, you know,” says Eunice. However, occasionally one of them creates a peculiarly bizarre expression that has the spirit and cadence of familiar phrases but is original in content: “If he’s ever so much as driven a plow I’ll eat a dozen gophers fried in turpentine.”

The narrator provides a vivid, though possibly biased, vision of Eunice as presiding queen of the household:Eunice is this big old fat thing with a behind that must weigh a tenth of a ton. . . . She chews tobacco and tries to pretend so ladylike, spitting on the sly. She keeps gabbing about what a fine education she had, which is her way of attempting to make me feel bad, although . . . I know for a fact she can’t even read the funnies without she spells out every single, solitary word. You’ve got to hand her one thing, though—she can add and subtract money so fast that there’s no doubt but what she could be up in Washington, D.C., working where they make the stuff.

Capote displays his ability here to reveal the ignorance, small-mindedness, and egotism of common people, a trait he shares with a number of contemporaneous southern writers. He has not here displayed the depth of humanity that often graces William Faulkner’s comic works or the moral passion that burns in Flannery O’Connor’s merciless exposes of everyday malice. Nevertheless, the story is an effective vehicle for the careful control of language, from which he could and did venture forth into realms of either gothic romanticism or increased realism.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 110

Bloom, Harold, ed. Truman Capote. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2003.

Brinnin, John Malcolm. Truman Capote: Dear Heart, Old Buddy. Rev. ed. New York: Delacorte Press, 1986.

Clarke, Gerald. Capote: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Dunphy, Jack.“Dear Genius”: A Memoir of My Life with Truman Capote. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989.

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.

Rudisill, Marie. The Southern Haunting of Truman Capote. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland House, 2000.

Windham, Donald. Lost Friendships: A Memoir of Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Others. New York: William Morrow, 1987.

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Themes