Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

To understand “The Suitor” fully, one must study the mythology of the Neumiller family in other stories. Larry Woiwode’s stories create a system of family history and a complex web of relationships among people spanning several generations.

“The Suitor” is traditional and realistic in style, based largely on the author’s autobiographical memories. The character of Martin Neumiller is modeled after Larry Woiwode’s father. Critics have written that in his stories and novels, Woiwode revives a neglected literary form—the family album. Many of Woiwode’s stories describe the plight of the Neumillers living in North Dakota, their German ancestors who emigrated to the United States, and the lives of their children as they move on to various professions in Illinois and New York.

Woiwode uses rich description, limited dialogue, and an omniscient narrator in “The Suitor.” The word choice is clean and especially beautiful and poetic when Martin reflects on his feelings toward Alpha. The story uses nonchronological organization, freely moving from the present to Martin’s memories about what his family knows about the Jones family.