Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The style of the story in its serenity, its quiet setting, and its almost total lack of action well matches the calm control exhibited by Grace Ansley, who turns out to be the victor in the contest initiated by Alida Slade. Although the reader is told that Alida is the dominant, vivid personality, and she clearly takes charge of both the activities (or lack thereof) and the conversation, her attacks on Grace are quietly rebuffed, and she is finally the loser as they mutually reveal information about their past activities.

The story is carefully wrought, so that the shift in sympathy to the timid Grace occurs fairly early, and it comes as a surprise to learn that she was so unconventional in her behavior as to undertake an assignation with another woman’s fiancé. Then the final surprise, which is so quietly, and characteristically, announced to the arrogant Alida, serves to end the story with a dramatic flourish that has even more impact because it is so subdued.