Glass of Fashion by Diane Williams is a short narrative of a family receiving news from a doctor about a father’s brain damage. This piece begins with the mother showing her grief through avoidance when she focuses all of her attention on the doctor who relates to her the severity of her husband’s brain damage. The narrator (presumably the son or daughter), deals with her grief in the same way as her mother, by directing her attention to the doctor’s physical features, all through the use of repetition. It isn’t until the last paragraph of the story—when the father passes away—that the main character uses repetition as a form of grief instead of avoidance. Even then, the avoidance portrayed at the beginning of the piece carries on until the last line of the story, at which point, it turns into a tool used to convey grief.
The repetition in this story gives the reader a sense of what the main character is feeling. A natural response to grief is escape and the phrases that the narrator draws attention to are phrases that highlight her avoidance in talking about her sick father. Instead, as the doctor is conveying her father’s medical status, the main character focuses on the physical traits of the doctor.
“The doctor’s hair was full and long and kinky and wavy and black. My mother’s hair is short and white and kinky and wavy and I could see why my mother was admiring the doctor’s hair. I was admiring the doctor’s body in her jeans. She had what I thought was a girlish and perfect form in her jeans, an enviable form (191).”
The repetition of the doctor’s hair compared to the main character’s mother, shows that the main character was focused not on what the doctor was saying, but on her appearance. Her observance of the “doctor’s jeans” also goes to achieve the same effect. By focusing on concrete things around her, the protagonist was forced to ignore the weight of the news that the doctor was delivering. Williams used this tool in her first few paragraphs to convey that grief was a missing emotion.
Later on, the author used this tool once again to portray the severity of the father’s injury:
“She said, “He doesn’t know who he is. He does not know who he once was. He does not feel grief or frustration. He does not know who you are (191).”
By choosing this repetition to convey the doctor’s dialogue, the reader can clearly see that there is significance in the words, “He doesn’t/does not.” It is at this part of the story that the reader can get a sense of how sick the father is and the repetition is also used as a foreshadowing tool that the father is not going to recover from his illness.
The final effect of the repetition in this piece is a way to illustrate the main character’s grief. While the first part of the story was centered on the main character’s avoidance, the last paragraph certainly does the opposite. Repetition is used differently in this last paragraph because Williams uses it to portray how flustered the narrator was becoming. Sometimes when we’re nervous, we ramble on about subjects that aren’t important; this is precisely what the narrator did.
“Her glasses are the kind my sister will not wear. She will not get glasses like that. My mother will not either. A serious person’s glasses…I can tell that she is serious, that she is serious about me too. If she were a man, I would call what we have shared romantic love—we have shared so much…If she were a man—even if she couldn’t remember half of what she had learned about the brain—even if she had forgotten it all—no—if she had forgotten it all (192).”