Posted in Short Stories

William Carlos Williams: The Girl With the Pimply Face (quotation marks or no quotation marks?)

Deal Me In 2019 – Week 23

J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣ J♣

When’s your mother coming back do you think, I asked again.

Maybe in an hour. But maybe you’d better come some time when my father’s here. He talks English. He ought to come in around five I guess.

But can’t you tell me something about the baby? I hear it’s been sick. Does it have a fever?

I dunno.

William Carlos Williams short story “The Girl With the Pimply Face” contains a phenomenon that is not that uncommon anymore in fiction. It doesn’t contain quotation marks in spite of the significant amount of dialogue and conversation.

I did a quick google search to see what information is out there on why some authors do this and found a couple of ideas.

oxford short stories

It seems some authors might do this to give the story a more poetic feel. Since William Carlos Williams is probably better known for his poetry than his prose, this could be the reason. However, while this might make the story look poetic, I don’t really find the reading of the story to be any more poetic without quotation marks.

Another reason I found for authors to do this is that they want to give the story a more “impressionist” style. Impressionism in painting might remove the specific borders between shapes and have one shape blend into another one. I found this reason to be a little more concrete with “The Girl With the Pimply Face”. The many characters give a collective impression of Russian immigrants to the doctor called to help them. The numerous lines of dialogue don’t necessarily delineate one character from another though with just a little effort, the reader can figure out who is speaking.

While there is a lot of information and opinions out there on this topic, here is where I found the most clear and concise information.

What is your opinion about quotation marks, “The Girl With the Pimply Face” or William Carlos Williams?

This is the first of his works that I’ve read. It’s included in The Oxford Book of American Short Stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. I read it when I selected the Jack of Clubs for Week 23 of my Deal Me In 2019 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be seen here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


2 thoughts on “William Carlos Williams: The Girl With the Pimply Face (quotation marks or no quotation marks?)

  1. I didn’t know William Carlos Williams wrote longer works. I only know him from poetry. I have to say, lack of quotation marks generally annoys me, but I suppose, if a writer can get away with it and still be clear in their storytelling…

    1. I knew he was a poet but I’m not familiar with any of his poetry. This was the first story of his I’ve read. Yes, I think “getting away with it” is key to no quotation marks. I don’t think this took anything away from this story. Not sure if it added much, either, though.

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