Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

One important technique in the story is the shift of point of view. In the first part of the story the point of view is third-person limited. The narrator describes the characters or the place but refuses to enter the thoughts of those characters. When Lally leaves the house, however, the narrator enters the mind of Lally and records her thoughts. The narration mirrors the change from a social scene to a personal and reflective one. It is essential that the reader know Lally’s thoughts in the second part of the story in order to evaluate her actions in the first part, and only a change in the type of narration can accomplish this.

One element of style needs to be mentioned: the use of imagery at the end of the story. The images of darkness and those of red (“the dark train,” “through the darkness,” “red sparks,” and “burning sparks”) fill Lally’s mind and remind her of the mother’s suffering in Purgatory and make her feel confused and feverish, and these feelings impel her to take some action to relieve her mother’s suffering. The penultimate paragraph begins with Lally feeling some “peace,” but that peace is driven out by the images.