Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 406 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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

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