Table of contents

Style of writing

The language used by Sally Rooney in the short story “At the Clinic” gives readers the illusion that they are following the main characters closely. This mainly happens through the present tense narration:

Marianne feels humiliated that Connell hasn’t told her about Lauren until now. She disguises these feelings by focusing a slow disdainful attention on her immediate surroundings. She wonders if Connell hasn’t told her because he finds her desperate. 

In this example, the present tense helps readers focus on Marianne’s immediate reactions upon finding out about Connell’s breakup. This helps readers see her as more vulnerable than she appears to be. Furthermore, the present tense narration helps the author present the story plainly to the reader, with the narrator being as unobtrusive as possible. As a result, the characters and their actions are allowed to speak for themselves. 

When the author introduces flashbacks, the narration switches to the past tense. This stylistic choice makes it easier for readers to understand what happened in the past and how this affects the characters’ present reactions. In the following example, the past tense is used to sh...

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