Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Nun,” written during the period of transition from Romanticism to realism, has some characteristics of both movements. The somber tone, the setting in the distant past, and the tragic lives portrayed are characteristic of Romanticism. Realist elements in the story include detailed descriptions; background information about the characters; an emphasis on daily, domestic life; and the conversational, confidential style used by the narrator. For example, he addresses himself to his readers, inviting them to imagine the scene, and he refers to “our great-grandchildren,” meaning his own offspring and those of his readers.

The narration of a slice of life is an important part of the style. The three characters are presented each in turn, as if a camera were panning over the room. Each is carefully described in the same order: first, the face and personality, then the dress, and finally the activity in which each is engaged. Only then are they identified. This is accomplished by a return to the past, in which the events leading up to the day in March, 1768, are explained.

One technique of characterization used by Alarcón is the comparison of his characters to famous artistic portraits, thus making the picture more vivid in the reader’s imagination. The child is compared to Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez’s paintings of Philip IV’s children, Isabel to Greek statues or the statues at the entrance to the Vatican’s sculpture...

(The entire section is 415 words.)