The Stories of Elizabeth Spencer Critical Essays

Elizabeth Spencer


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

In her article “Storytelling, Old and New,” Spencer describes how her stories are conceived. Each of them begins, she says, with a specific event which somehow sparks her imagination. By writing, she tries to penetrate the surface of what she has observed, in order to find out not only why the event occurred but also what it signifies.

Written as they are out of a kind of creative curiosity, Spencer’s stories quite naturally move toward a final revelation, when her narrators or protagonists come to a new understanding of the self, of human nature, or of the substance of life. Such revelations may be merely the reestablishment of domestic tranquillity after some momentary tension, as in “A Bad Cold” and “The Adult Holiday.” They can involve a momentous change, however, as when in “The Girl Who Loved Horses” the protagonist recognizes herself in a man she has learned to fear or when in “The Bufords” the teacher realizes that the boisterous family whose offspring she cannot control forgive her for her intolerance and absorb her into their clan and their way of life.

Typically, in the course of a story, Spencer will pose a problem by setting up thematic oppositions. For example, in “Moon Rocket” a young boy must choose between illusion and reality; if he does not abandon his fantasy of life in space and beam down to earth, at least temporarily, he will lose his new girlfriend. Similarly, it is an overactive imagination...

(The entire section is 558 words.)