Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mason uses a first-person narrator to reveal the main character’s attitudes through a series of interior monologues. As Mary struggles to make decisions about her life, she focuses on ordinary, everyday activities, such as playing Monopoly and watching cats. Mary’s life is portrayed in surface details, in descriptions of the house and the cats. She describes other characters in the way they react toward money and possessions. At times, the possessions reflect another aspect of a personality. For example, Larry’s truck “has a chrome streak that makes it look like a rocket,” and the doors are painted with flames. Perhaps the truck represents the conservative dentist’s wild past.

Mason describes scenes in brief, vivid passages. While they are eating in a restaurant, Mary studies “the saw handles, scythes, pulleys . . . mounted on wood like fish trophies.” This arrangement of farm tools represents an important part of the community’s past. When Mary and Larry circle West Kentucky in Larry’s small plane, they get an aerial view of “eighty acres of corn and pasture, neat green squares.” Mary loves this part of Kentucky, whether viewed from a distance or up as close as her parents’ farmhouse with the “old white wood siding, the sagging outbuildings.”

Mason uses symbols to illuminate the story. The rabbit, for example, is caught in the middle of the road, trying to move with its front legs, grounded by its crushed back legs. Mary is like the rabbit—grounded, unable to move. The word processor, an impersonal, fast-moving machine that spews out words, is a metaphor for the rapid changes going on in the world.

Mary exists suspended between nostalgia for the past and apprehension about her future. The thought of selling her parents’ house and moving to Louisville leaves her feeling rootless. Her relationships are unraveling. She is separated from her husband; her parents are more concerned with their lives in Florida than in what is going on at their old home. Mary will be forced to leave the house, because her parents need the proceeds from the sale to buy their condo in Florida. Because Mary has made no decision by the story’s end, the story is left unresolved. The story closes with the image of the cat’s eyes showing both red and green.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

A Changing Landscape
Bobbie Ann Mason sets ‘‘Residents and Transients’’ in a rural landscape to underscore the changes...

(The entire section is 389 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Images and Imagery
Generally, images are defined as figures of speech that appeal to the senses of the reader. Therefore, there...

(The entire section is 689 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1980s: Unemployment is at 10.8 percent in 1982, a record high since the Great Depression of the 1930s. High inflation rates inhibit...

(The entire section is 210 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Mason, Raymond Carver, and Anne Beattie have been called ‘‘K-Mart realists.’’ Read several stories by each writer and a few...

(The entire section is 129 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

In Country is Bobbie Ann Mason’s 1985 novel that chronicles the struggle of Samantha Hughes to understand her dead father in the...

(The entire section is 174 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Aldridge, John W. Talents and Technicians: Literary Chic and the New Assembly-Line Fiction, Charles Scribner’s...

(The entire section is 444 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Brinkmeyer, Robert H., Jr. “Finding One’s History: Bobbie Ann Mason and Contemporary Southern Literature.” Southern Literary Journal 19 (Spring, 1987): 22-33.

Flora, Joseph M. “Bobbie Ann Mason.” In Contemporary Fiction Writers of the South, edited by Joseph M. Flora and Robert Bain. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Price, Joanna. Understanding Bobbie Ann Mason. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.

Ryan, Maureen. “Stopping Places: Bobbie Ann Mason’s Short Stories.” In Women Writers of the Contemporary South, edited by Peggy Whitman Prenshaw. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1984.

Wilhelm, Albert. Bobbie Ann Mason: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1998