The Secret Lives of Dieters Analysis

Perri Klass

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Many stories in Perri Klass’s second collection I Am Having an Adventure (1986) concern girls or young women from conventional backgrounds who have wandered off to a faraway locale to have adventures. In this story, however, the protagonist never leaves her urban apartment, and adventures take place only in her own mind. The author uses flat, uninflected prose to lead the reader on a dreamy stroll through Polly’s fantasies. Although the omniscient narrator refers at times to Donald’s thoughts, and once to Louisa’s, the largest part of the story is seen from Polly’s perspective. In some paragraphs, the narrator switches from Donald’s apartment to Polly’s mind as if they were one, providing little distinction between reality and Polly’s fantasies.

None of the characters is revealed directly, but only through the narrator’s and Polly’s observations. Although the characters seem like young professionals, their ages are never indicated, and there are few specific descriptions of their appearances or environment. One notable exception is a passage in which the narrator observes Polly’s looks and apartment. Polly usually thinks of herself as a small, dark animal, but on this day she has braided her thick, dark hair into twenty-three tiny braids. “She is no longer a small furry animal, she is a spider. Her apartment is her lair, or her web, it is always dark, and there are mysterious things piled in the corners and complicated woven rope sculptures on the walls. . . . if Donald touches the furniture, he will stick to it.” Using such simple but evocative speech, Klass ensnares her reader in the dark, mysterious lair of Polly’s mind.