Shirley Hazzard Don M. Wolfe - Essay

Don M. Wolfe

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The ten stories collected [in Cliffs of Fall and Other Stories] reveal a many-faceted if unextended talent concentrated mainly on the portrayal of woman acutely vulnerable to the burden of love enhanced by rejection.

Of such is the longest and ripest story, "A Place in the Country," in which the heroine loves her cousin's husband with a blind, despairing passion, deepest at the instant of parting. Neither in this story nor in any other in this volume does the author use a march of scenes to portray a conscious tension between two parts of her heroine's psyche. The structure of the stories, like the imagery, is suggestive rather than rounded. Shirley Hazzard has much of the delicacy and subtlety and poignancy that distinguished Katherine Mansfield and Willa Cather, but without the fulness of dilemma one finds in "Bliss" or "A Wagner Matinée."…

In bringing some characters into focus Miss Hazzard inter-poses too many minor figures. At times she uses introspection indiscriminately, as in "The Worst Moment of the Day" and "In One's Own House," where she plunges abruptly into the thoughts of four or five people in quick succession. Moreover, the internal life of no one character in Cliffs of Fall is fully realized.

If it is weak in certain aspects of structure, Miss Hazzard's art is rich and glowing in stylistic resources. Sparing and selective in her use of images, she often deftly brings...

(The entire section is 401 words.)