Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Critics have long credited Stafford with having a vivid, descriptive style that shows her deep reverence for the power of the English language. When “A Reasonable Facsimile” appeared in print, Stafford’s acquaintance Eudora Welty commended her story, writing, “Oh, Jean, I love all the detail and the splendor.” Saul Bellow, another admirer of Stafford’s writing, sent her a congratulatory note, remarking: “I liked all the stories, but the one about the old professor and the young know-it-all best.” Through her elaborate descriptions of characters and settings, Stafford is able to create an atmosphere as realistic as, for example, many found in Charles Dickens’s novels. In “A Reasonable Facsimile,” Stafford presents the professor so thoroughly that the reader really feels as though he has met the old gentleman.

The narrator pulls the reader into the actual theater of the story: “Imagine, then, this character, with his silver beard, wearing a hazel coat-sweater from J. C. Penney. . . . Or look at him pottering in his pretty Oriental garden. . . . See him in his sleek, slender blond dining room eating a mutton chop or blood pudding with red cabbage.” Stafford’s style also develops a firm sense of place, for she uses actual and specific locations to give her fiction that local-color flavor most often found in realistic fiction. As a result, her fiction presents an atmosphere that becomes more crucial than plot itself; her characters...

(The entire section is 588 words.)