Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Carver is often associated with those contemporary writers who have been described as “minimalists.” The term is meant to describe, among other characteristics, a style that lacks amplitude, which handles both emotional extremes in monotone, as if true joy and pain do not exist. In this story, however, Carver’s protagonist feels deeply the pain of his wife’s revelation, even though the pain is dulled for a few hours by his drunkenness.

Another characteristic of the minimalist technique is often thought to be an extremely short and abrupt style. Carver’s word choice never reaches beyond very ordinary, contemporary language, and his sentences are often short, giving the texture of his fiction an almost machine-gunlike, staccato touch and sound. However, there is little about this story to make it anything more or less than traditional. Time is used realistically throughout; the style, while short and abrupt, never stands in the way of the story line. Carver’s descriptions are never vapid and emotionless, but instead are sharp and convincing, especially when he follows Ralph’s trek to a greater sense of his own mystery in those vivid scenes that capture the reality of dizzying drunkenness prompted by self-destroying paranoia.