Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As in most of his stories, Callaghan’s style here is objective, concise, and unadorned. He strives to present the essential, illuminating experience directly to his reader. Much depends on the reader’s sensitivity to implications and undercurrents, which is entirely consonant with a story about a young man’s discovery of the poignant reality underlying his mother’s apparently routine existence.

The story is written in the third person, with Alfred as the central consciousness, as befits a story about his moral growth. The clipped dialogue, unmetaphorical prose, and paucity of specific details regarding time, place, characters, atmosphere, and so on allow Callaghan to highlight those moments when the central character’s consciousness expands under the impact of experience.

Structurally, “All the Years of Her Life” develops through a series of surprises moving toward a crucial revelation. Alfred is surprised by his employer, surprised by Mr. Carr’s inexplicable reluctance to prosecute, surprised by his mother’s deft handling of the situation, and finally, surprised by his discovery of the pain and suffering his mother endures. Though compact and spare, the story convincingly suggests the potential in humanity for significant moral development.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Canadian Literature in the 1920s and 1930s
Canada did not officially become a country until 1867, so it has had a relatively...

(The entire section is 528 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Point of View
The story is told from the point of view of a selective omniscient narrator. This means that although the...

(The entire section is 369 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1930s: Canadian literature is still in its infancy and is not known for having distinctive characteristics of its own....

(The entire section is 311 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Describe an incident in your own life when you had a moment of revelation about someone. What truth did you see that was not apparent to you...

(The entire section is 314 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘All the Years of Her Life’’ was adapted as a film by the same name in 1974. It was directed by Robert Fortier and stars Carl...

(The entire section is 32 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Such Is My Beloved (1934) is widely considered to be Callaghan’s finest novel. It tells the story of a young priest who tries to...

(The entire section is 176 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Abrams, M. H., Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature, Norton, 1971, pp....

(The entire section is 384 words.)