Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Saunders adopts an informal, chatty, and sometimes slangy tone throughout the twenty-six short chapters of “Pastoralia.” By this means, he creates an atmosphere close to that of the office place of the 1990’s or later, even while the characters are busily roasting goats or banging stones together. He adds to this evocation of the business world in other ways, the most prominent of them being the repeated use of fax machines, memos, and notes. These appear regularly, unlike supervisors or family members, each of whom are represented by only a single physical appearance.

Despite its mechanical nature, the fax machine carries the messages in the story having the most emotional weight because almost all the interactions between the narrator’s and Janet’s family members take place by means of this device. In this way, the organization effectively stands between the main characters and their families. The only family member to visit, Janet’s son, does so by slipping around corporate barriers without paying the entrance fee. In other words, criminal conduct enables personal contact.

Saunders also uses faxes and memos to underline the hypocrisy of the organization, in part through the use of irony. Apart from the supervisor’s single visit, a series of communications from him reiterates his need to hear the truth from the caveman actor. The series culminates in a companywide memo about rumors, falsehood, and truth, which arrives after the caveman...

(The entire section is 443 words.)