‘Winky’ by George Saunders


Winky by George Saunders, 1997

The magic trick:

Using what appears to be a simple switching-POV structure but surprising in the final section

The mechanics of this story seem fairly obvious at first. We have a section from Neil’s point of view that winds up creating an image in our minds of Winky as a monster.

Then we have a section from Winky’s point of view that paints her as pretty much the most sympathetic character in all of literature.

Something’s gotta give in the third and final section, right?

Remarkably, the final section is again from Neil’s point of view yet the reader’s sympathy doesn’t turn away from Winky; it doubles down and only increases. Neil’s childhood memories of his sister and their troubles together are guaranteed tugs at the heartstrings. The story’s structure isn’t as simple as it first seemed, just as Neil’s plight isn’t as simple a fix as he’d hoped. And that’s quite a trick on Saunders’s part.

The selection:

“Do you need help determining who that person is?” said Tom Rodgers. “Your oatmeal-crapper?”

“No,” said Yaniky.

“Excellent,” said Tom Rodgers. “Now write the name and under it write the major way in which you perceive this person to be crapping in your oatmeal. Be frank. This is just between you and me.”

On an erasable markerboard permanently mounted in the dummy’s chest Yaniky wrote, “Winky: Crazy-looking and too religious and needs her own place.”

As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s