Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“What Is the Connection Between Men and Women?” maintains a double vision; one of its major experiments is in point of view. The questions are asked directly; the answers are indirect, third-person narration. However, the paradox is that the questions of a skeptical exterior confront the answers of a sympathetic interior. Sharon does not speak for herself—the reader knows her through a mediating narrator who keeps her in steady focus. The implication is that she cannot speak for herself.

Repetition is forcefully used to convey meaning. For example, Sharon’s neurotic obsession with a dead husband emerges from the repetitions within the following passage: “She is married permanently to that man. Married. Married permanently. She is in love with that man yet, a dead man. Married, In love. When she sleeps, she sleeps with him; his body is next to her, in sleep.” Later in the story, these repetitions reemerge: “She was still married. She was married permanently.”

The repetition comes from outside as well; the questioner repeats himself almost maniacally. The question asked only once is: “Are you in there?” He has only thirteen questions in his repertory, yet he speaks twenty-seven times.

Repetition on each side of the double vision is a stylistic response to the title question: The connection between men and women, between experience and fear, between the outside and the tormented interior, is tenuous.