Style of language

The style of the short story “The Gift” by Karen Phillips is semi-formal. On the one hand, the writer uses everyday English: “ ‘Amelia. Dad’s still milking. What’ll you give them for a present?’ ‘I don’t know. When’s the wedding?’ ” (ll. 5-6). This gives the dialogues more authenticity and helps the characters come across as natural, allowing them to speak for themselves.

On the other hand, the story also includes long narrative passages where the language is more formal: “We dismantled our marriage as flood waters slid towards the road during my second winter as receptionist at our local vet clinic. It’s a busy practice – each day brings different animals and their owners and salespeople.” (ll. 76-78). Such passages give readers insight into the narrator’s thoughts, and the language becomes a way to show the character is educated.

The choice of words also reflects the narrator’s state of mind and inner conflict. Negative words help convey the narrator’s regrets over her failed marriage and the consequences of her divorce: “our cold, wet winters” (l. 31), “stronger, less tired version of me” (ll. 35-36), “dark bubbles” (l. 74), “miserable” (l. 103), etc.

When the narrator describes the painting that she associates with Amelia, the negative...

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