Behind Lily Tuck’s simple, direct fiction style in “La Mayonette” is an interesting method to show character development using a static object. To describe this I coined the phrase “acute bloody potato.”
All throughout the story we are shown the strange, poorly hung wallpaper of a woman’s profile with red hair. From the get-go the character is unnerved, describing it as inappropriate and disturbing. As the story progresses we are shown that the woman on the wall makes her way into the narrator’s dreams, causing her to become a little more self-aware as the piece progresses. She starts worrying and wondering about her two sons and Francine’s girls getting along, her youngest son’s happiness after he breaks his arm. Nearing the end of the piece, she is pushed over the edge after dealing with her son’s injury, and snaps. She reacts by throwing her shoes one at a time at the walls. She also tells us that her husband and her have been intimate less frequently, and that when they do, she thinks of Didier, and blames the one hundred and seventy two faces on the walls. At the very end, as she is leaving La Mayonette, there is an anticlimactic resolution to this conflict the narrator has created with herself; she kisses one of the faces on the wall. The change in her is difficult to see, and you have to really read between the lines and impose a lot on the character, which I think makes the story “interactive” if you will.
A good lesson to use and learn from this story is to let your character be shaped by the surrounding objects. Whether it be a particular sofa, or a trinket from a vacation, each object can hold influence on your character. The fun part is deciding whether it really shows up in their thought process (like in La Mayonette, we see her become a little more neurotic, self-aware, self-analytical) or in their behavior. Or both, those things frequently go hand in hand.