Style and Technique

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Paley’s style is compressed and economical, even by the standards of the short-story form. Sardonic and clever, there is also something slightly exotic about her voice, which Paley attributes to Yiddish and Russian influences. Her characters come to life through her use of odd, quirky turns of phrase. In “The Used-Boy Raisers,” for example, Faith describes Livid’s problems with the Roman Catholic church as his “own little dish of lava,” a phrase that in an original but biting way puts him in his place.

On the surface, “The Used-Boy Raisers” is short and virtually plotless. Employing considerable dialogue, the narrative seems to be nothing but aimless and unstructured table talk. Paley circles around her themes and meanings, approaching them indirectly, under the guise of inconsequence. She is, however, pitting Faith against her two husbands as she introduces a series of topics—eggs, her old flame, the children, Israel, her plans for the day. The narrative is artfully structured so that by the end of the story, Faith’s character and values have been firmly established, and important distinctions have been made between herself and the two men. Although her conversation seems to flow in a guileless, conversational way, at times Paley retreats inside Faith’s mind to secure Faith’s perspective as the guiding point of view in the story. Faith’s sudden speech about the Diaspora Jews takes the reader in a surprising new direction. This is characteristic of Paley’s stories, which often take disarming twists and turns. The conclusion imagines Faith as a woman living in a world apart from that of her husbands, underlining the series of distinctions Paley has made between her female protagonist and the two similar men.


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