Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “The Rainy Moon,” the writer’s style and the character of the narrator-author are practically indistinguishable. Both are reticent, seemingly disinterested, and intuitive.

Colette’s style is reticent because, although she offers many details about her personal life, the reader nevertheless completes the story feeling as though he or she really knows very little about her. With scant preamble, she makes a baldly honest and self-astute comment such as “ . . . a solitude that bore no resemblance to peace had wiped all the life and charm out of my face.” Then she withdraws from her statement as precipitously as she introduced it, leaving the reader to speculate on why she was solitary and discontent. Just as Colette the character does not bother to share with Rosita the astonishing discovery that she used to inhabit this very apartment, neither does the narrator Colette share explanations with the reader. Her reticence implies that some things are inexplicable, while other things are explicable yet better left unexplained.

Feigning disinterest, the author barges into Delia’s bedroom on the pretext of aiding the young woman. However, her true purpose is to satisfy her own curiosity about this virtual specter of her former self. Similarly, Colette’s style is superficially disinterested. She renders a seemingly dispassionate and cool record of events; yet there is an undercurrent of deep sensitivity, if not deep emotionality, constantly held in check, running through her work. Her disinterest is but a facade; no one in the story has greater emotional investment in the events in the Barberet apartment than does the author.

Finally, Colette is an intuitive writer rather than an empirical one. Some of her intuitive flights could be termed “digressions.” In the middle of recounting the Barberet tale, she suddenly talks of the pleasantness of picnics in the Bois, her mother’s perspective-restoring visit, or an eventless dinner in a neighborhood café. Although ostensibly discursions, these snapshots serve several important purposes. Scenes of normalcy provide contrast for the culminating evil in the Barberet apartment and, at the same time, add to the tale a journal-like realism, intimating that, no, this is not a contrived story but simply a diary of events. Ideally, these “digressions” beguile the reader into identifying with the author’s “normal” life, then whisper to him or her, See what eerie and unexplainable things lurk close to you.