Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Michael Anthony Dorris punctuates the informal conversational style in “Queen of Diamonds” with dry, wry humor that heightens every irony while ensuring that the story’s characters remain individuals rather than stereotypes. When Ray tries to figure out why her mother is so upset by her father’s indifference, she reflects, “Being married never stops either one of them from doing what they want. It doesn’t interfere.” The humor of that last sentence simultaneously adds poignancy and subtracts sentimentality from the text. Dorris’s dependence on declarative sentence structures strong on nouns and verbs and sparse in adjectives forces the reader to see exact word pictures that reflect the strengths of his characters.

Rich in metaphor, “Queen of Diamonds” compares fantasy to reality, using a card game and its players’ comments to reveal character and motive. Dorris’s choice of narrator is also worth noting. Ray tells the story from her point of view, the only perspective from which the reader can discern Ray’s maturity and wit as a result of being privy to her thoughts. Because Ray’s parents spend most of their time and energies caught up in their own dilemmas, Ray’s role as narrator cleverly combines the distanced, objective stance of the disassociated with the inside knowledge and keen sense of observation that only an intimate could possess.

Realistic dialogue that includes sentence fragments and profanities, as well as short paragraphs that mimic the staccato leaps of unreasoned, if not unreasonable, thought, add to Dorris’s simple, elegant style.