Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story is told in an apparently effortless, episodic recollection and then, suddenly, ends with a howl of despair at the destruction of the innocent joy that was re-created in the narrative: “I thought that ours indeed was a land of shame, a land of murder, and a land of strange, throttled, sacrificial women.” The role of storyteller seems to remove the narrator from the category of “throttled” women, but the anger that issues directly here is present throughout under the calm surface. The style blends a wide-eyed innocence appropriate to the age of the schoolfriends with a bitter irony and a grotesque humor that are suited to the exposure of that horrific reality that the girls in their innocence do not consciously oppose. By entering fully into the girls’ earlier experience, the narrator tells the story with a surprising acceptance of the horrific reality that is part of things as they are in the world.

Sometimes the irony is directed against the children’s way of observing and of expressing themselves. “She would work like a horse to get to the main road before dark to see the passerby”; such a sentence captures the grim routine of the farm, which turns Eily into a workhorse, and also her craving for excitement or release. This is a typical, understated sentence, apparently factual but catching a raw quality of the life there. The next sentences deepen the insight that was dropped so casually: “She was swift as a colt. My father...

(The entire section is 501 words.)