‘Beatrice Trueblood’s Story’ by Jean Stafford

Beatrice Trueblood’s Story by Jean Stafford, 1955

The magic trick:

Revealing information about the title character in an oddly lopsided, misshapen story arc

We’re off to Rhode Island this week, beginning in Newport with this oddly misshapen character study from Jean Stafford.

Like many good character studies, it manages to be both about its subject and its storyteller. In this case, we arguably learn more about Mr. Onlsager through his interest in Beatrice than we do about the titular Trueblood herself.

But let’s go back to that word “misshapen” used earlier to describe the story. It’s very odd. The story moves back and forth in time, shifting focal points in its third-person narration. I’m not sure it works particularly well, to be honest. But it’s an interesting idea – revealing information about Beatrice’s life from different perspectives until a more complete picture forms.

And that’s quite a trick on Stafford’s part.

The selection:

At last, Jack was unsettled; Priscilla was really scared; ten Brink was angry, and, getting up again to stand over her like a prosecuting attorney interrogating a witness of bad character, he said, “You’re not being droll, Beatrice, you’re being tiresome.”

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