Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Giving the story a provocative dimension is Banks’s use of images and metaphors that double. Just as the distant past of the narrator’s childhood echoes his recent visit to Tobyhanna, there are several other instances that reinforce this mirroring quality. In the downtown bar the narrator orders a beer from a woman whose “double—her twin” sits on a barstool. Later he refers to this as a “doubling image” that replicates, “doubling the place itself with” memory.

As he drives up to the farmhouse, the narrator notices two stone chimneys that are “matched” by a pair of maple trees, all of this suggesting doubleness and symmetry. The child narrator and his brother share a room with a pair of windows and twin beds—the twin beds perhaps suggesting that the brother, too, was a victim of the father’s violence.

More to the point, however, is the incident in which the narrator is mistaken for his father. When Rettstadt first sees him, he calls him by his father’s name, and the narrator equates himself with his father, writing that he was “more likely my father than my father’s son.” All of this enriches the point of the story, that violence repeats itself and that because of violence the past and present must visit each other.