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I think it is interesting the O’Connor chose to withhold from the reader what Alice’s dissertation is about. I am unclear of the effect this has on the reader, but it seems significant – the story is a very close third, so this seems to be the greatest cause of distance between Alice and the reader. There is certainly something inherently academic about going to a isolated cabin in the woods, most likely due to Thoreau’s Walden. The boat scene is also familiar, and even a bit cliché, but I think that is okay to have such a moment in a relatively long story. I love the effect of the two opposing descriptions of the sunrises as the story develops. The first on page 120 is so warm and romantic; it is a sunrise that one would expect to be described in a love story. By page 125 the sunrise is described as “the ashen light of approaching dawn turned the leaves outside her window the color of cooked liver…”

The suspense is effectively created by the old man on the shore, noise in the woods, the oars being replaced and continues on through the noises under the deck and the man on the dock up until the end when Alice is running to her car. The metaphor culminates here – what you do not know is perhaps the most frightening of all. Alice fears of Ian’s infidelity.

 

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