Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story’s point of view is entirely Ruby’s, centering on her partial discovery of what is wrong in her life. Although sensitive, Ruby is inarticulate, forcing the narrator to step in with a number of direct statements to let the reader know what is going on. Clearly, the narrator has a power of generalization denied to Ruby: “She stood in front of the cabin fireplace, her legs wide apart, bending over, shaking her wet yellow hair crossly, like a cat reproaching itself for not knowing better.” The story, however, provides images that have a strong relationship to Ruby’s psychological stages. One image used throughout is the thunderstorm, an often overused device that signifies emotional stress, although it is unobtrusive here. It serves in the story to isolate Ruby even more from her husband, and as an appropriate background for the magic moment of discovering her name in the newspaper.

Also significant is the connection between this discovery and her desire for pregnancy. Having spread out the newspaper, “she watched it, as if it were unpredictable, like a young girl watching a baby.” While she is preparing Clyde’s dinner, “There was some way she began to move her arms that was mysteriously sweet and yet abrupt and tentative, a delicate and vulnerable manner, as though her breasts gave her pain.” The episode creates a sensual arousal in Ruby, which is now directed toward her husband.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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