Ann Beattie writes her short story “The Lawn Party” as a male narrator. Because men tend to be less emotional than women are, this makes the narrator’s point of view more believable. Although this is a story that moves from one agonizing situation to another, the lack of human emotion leaves one with a somewhat empty feeling. One could infer that the author removed all sensitivity from the narrator in an attempt to make him appear aloof, indifferent, and even somewhat callous.
The narrator lost his arm in a car accident. When asked if he would like a plastic arm or claw, he rejected both. When asked what he would like, he calmly responded “air”. Later in the story, he complained that he has to sip beer because it would be annoying if he had to set the beer down to wipe his mouth. He also received a letter from the college where he worked, stating that they hoped all was well and that he would be back to work in the fall. His only thought was that it would be difficult to teach art with only one arm, but then dismissed the entire issue as if it was unimportant.
The narrator told of falling in love with his wife’s sister before they were married. He asked his fianc?e to postpone the marriage so he could sort things out. She responded by drinking heavily and crying. For some reason he relented and married her as planned. His new wife would not see her sister again; however, he continued to see his wife’s sister throughout their marriage, further demonstrating his lack if sensitivity. Although he had a child with his wife, he does not express any emotion toward either of them.
It had been more than ten years since the affair began that led to the tragic car accident. He had been spending the day with his wife’s sister shopping. She was driving home when she swerved off the road, killing herself, and causing him to lose his right arm. When he awoke in the hospital, he expected his wife to take pity on him. Instead, his wife told him that he had deserved it. She also told him that her sister had tried to commit suicide. When he reflected on the accident, he cannot clearly sort through the possible emotions that would lead this woman to try to kill them both. Through all of this, he shows no emotion about loosing his wife, arm, or his mistress.
After the accident, his family had their annual lawn party. He spent the entire day upstairs in his room. He refused to go downstairs to the party and socialize with his relatives. He sat there thinking about how his ex-wife was influencing his daughter’s opinion of him yet showed no sorrow and dismissed it. His daughter appeared to have little to do with him and he does nothing to try to change the situation. He demonstrated this indifference throughout the story by ignoring his daughters numerous requests for him to join her downstairs with the other guests. When his brother’s wife came upstairs to see him, he flirted with her and asked to kiss her feet. The only emotion he exhibits throughout the story was lust. Later in the evening, one of his students came to visit him. The student was described as a brilliant artist yet the narrator does not appreciate his talents nor does he appear to care about his troubles or addictions. He does not care to participate in any social events or conversations.
If the male narrator showed more emotions, one would feel more compassion toward him. The way the story was wrote the narrator appeared very cold, heartless, and detached. The reader feels no sympathy for his character due to his steadfast lack of emotion.