The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark

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Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Clark’s language is relatively simple, for he is emphasizing what happens, not language in itself. It is a language of concrete images, especially of winter; the points are made largely through the use of imagery, not assertion. Clark develops his themes, however, through the use of a varying point of view as well as of the overall structure, and these two techniques are intimately allied.

Structurally, the story moves from a general view of humankind to the particular. As the story begins, the world is presented from the outside, almost as though through the lens of a camera. These images are of a cruel and unforgiving natural world, and so become comments. For only a sentence or two, an authorial voice tells us what those images mean. This is the one place that this judging, moralizing voice enters. Most of the story does not force the reader to accept a particular meaning, but the authorial...

(The entire section is 317 words.)