‘The Photograph’ by Enrique Amorim

The Photograph by Enrique Amorim, 1942

The magic trick:

Using the plot to describe the main character

This story is a brilliant example of using plot to describe a character. We get an early physical description of Madame Dupont – “thick layers of face powder, and a jewel that threatened the unprotected eyes of the entire neighborhood.” But for the most part the nature of her situation is left vague. It is only through the plot – the need to stage a photograph for her mother, the way the schoolteacher reacts to her invitation – that the reader can start to identify who Madame Dupont is. We never get an definitive answer, but we have enough to create a full picture of the character. And that’s quite a trick on Amorim’s part.

The selection:

The pitiful woman with the peroxided hair felt her legs tremble. Her words of greeting evaporated on her lips. And she hugged the wall, without looking up.

Maybe some day she would work up the courage to pause and speak to her neighbor. There on the marble balcony, the schoolmarm looked withered. Melancholy, and defeated. The balcony itself looked very much like the one on the backdrop. Perhaps she would ask her the favor. Why not try? She would never refuse such an innocuous request.

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