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The structure of “Thirteen Wives” by Steven Millhauser is what stands out the most in the story, despite its strange, surreal content. Instead of a narrative, there is an introduction and then numbered paragraphs about each of the 13 wives. I think it’s the best way the author could have conveyed this situation and made his point about each of the wives without it getting long and confusing and muddled. Through this structure the author can focus on each of the wives and describe them instead of putting them into scenes that would show their character. Scenes would also detract from this surreal story, since it’s not based in a concrete reality.

Since the story is not set in a world we know and understand, it is ambiguous and left up to the reader to determine what is happening. I think this sense of mystery, created through the simple description of his living situation, and then descriptions of each of the wives, allows each reader to take what they want from the story, which is important as all readers have different pasts and different things they need to gain from stories. One reader might think that the thirteen wives are just the different sides of one wife as people are ever changing in relationships and moods. Another reader may see the 13 wives as different people the narrator has loved throughout his lifetime, or representations of the different people in the world. Since the story is so perfectly strange and unclear, readers have more freedom for interpretation and understanding. This strangeness and lack of clarity is created through the lack of narrative, the strange structure, and the descriptions of the different wives.

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