Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The core of Lardner’s style and the source of much of his humor lies in his mastery of various American dialects. More specifically, Lardner’s characters, most of whom reside in the lower reaches of the middle class or below, use ordinary language rather than the idealized speech of much literature. This usually means that they slaughter grammar, diction, and all else that is sacred in language. However, Lardner’s characters also speak colorfully, employing delightful slang expressions and revealing the soul of American society. In this, Charles Lewis and Mabelle Gillespie are no exception. What is different about “Some Like Them Cold” is the fact that the entire story is told through letters. This allows Lardner to have a field day with his characters’ spelling, particularly that of Charles, who ends his first letter to Mabelle as follows: “In the mean wile girlie au reservoir and don’t do nothing I would not do.” (Mabelle seems to be slightly more literate.)

In Lardner’s work, the language employed is not primarily an instrument for moving the story along. It is itself the story, providing a window not only into Lardner’s characters but also into American society and into the very depths of human nature.