Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 560

A term frequently applied to Hempel’s short fiction is minimalism—a technique that creates fiction that is deceptively simple and realistic. At its best, minimalism creates a concentrated and uncluttered narrative. In addition, it is a style that also reflects the characteristics of the short story, the genre that best houses minimalism. Both minimalism and the short story rely heavily on figures of speech and the baggage of connotation attached to each. Metonymy is the basic trope for realism, and metaphor is the basic trope for poetry. Minimalist stories are realistic in that they use metonymy such as the joke or the arm wrestling references in this story. The joke that the young girl tells is a tiny anecdote within the short story, yet it not only reflects the whole idea of this story, it also gestures toward the larger text of a universal condition in which humanity is no longer located in strong family units and no longer able to address emotions directly. Instead, the human condition represented here disallows words and dislocates language as a means of emotional survival. The references to the arm wrestling contest and the reasons given for the trio not going to the event refer to the same sort of human condition, “The best one could hope for was dislocation”—not just of someone’s arm (rather than being broken under the old rules), but also dislocation of emotions, language, and meaning.

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Everything left out of a minimalist short story is as important as the things that remain. In this story, for example, there is never any mention of the children’s mother (the father’s former wife), but she is present as part of the dislocation caused by divorce. Likewise, the names of the characters are left out of the story; this omission gives the story a universal dimension because the characters’ anonymity suggests that they could be any father and children who are characters in the drama and effects of divorce. Further, many things are not said by the narrator to the reader; many more things are not said by the characters among...

(The entire section contains 560 words.)

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