Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This story is written lightly and without the incredibly dark or foreboding tone that might accompany a story of this nature. Although it is not as humorous as much of Brown’s writing, it has an undertone of the absurdity of life; it brings into focus the ideas that people often do things they do not want to do, and they do things when they have no idea why. Nor is it noticeably Mississippian, as his work normally is. The presence of a microwave oven indicates at least the latter part of the twentieth century, but the juxtaposition of a person feeling warmth against coldness could be from anywhere and at any time.

The story is written in the first-person, conversational present tense. Louis is thinking to himself rather than telling a story to anyone in particular. The style is brief and easy to follow. By using commonplace items and well-known places, and presenting the main problem of the unpleasant coldness outside the bed versus the gentle warmth under the blankets, the author makes this story accessible and implies much more than is actually said. The text itself is only a few pages, very short even for a short story.

Most of the action occurs inside Louis’s head. His wife appears only as Louis sees her and thinks about her. The reader does not learn her name or anything about her except that she causes periodic discomfort to Louis. By knowing what Louis is thinking, rather than watching him act out his life tangibly, Brown brings his character’s deeper sense of personality to life easily and effectively.

As Louis seems fairly old, the most likely symbols here will tie warmth to life and coldness to death. More than that, this story is an honest and unflinching view of the human experience that does not apologize for bending toward the dark side.