Review: Tobias Wolff’s Story “The Night in Question”


The story by Tobias Wolff introduces two siblings sharing different opinions but has great concern for each other (Wolff, 1997). On one side, lies the devoted sister who is profoundly unsettled after the brother insists on telling her about a certain story she is not interested in (Wolff, 1997). On the other side is the brother who keeps misusing his sister by telling her stories against her while knowing very well she does not have what it takes to object. The paper provides a discussion of the story mechanics, summary of reviews on this story and a reflection on reproducible techniques.

  1. a) Story mechanics analysis

The story, the night in question by Tobias Wolff introduces two siblings Frances and Frank as the main characters. Other characters include the parents and characters within Frank’s story such as Mike Boiling, Benny and people aboard the train. All the mentioned characters helped in ensuring completion of the story by Tobias Wolff that presents a story within a story by Frank.

The main goal presented at the beginning of the story is Frances trying to get attention from her brother Frank. Here the little sister comes with the desire to get comfort over disappointment in love, something she can get from her brother. On the other side, Frank also wants his sister to listen to his story, which brings a conflicting situation on agenda and the main aim of Frances coming to him.

The storyline presents significant obstacles in the way for Frances to tell her story (Burroway, 2014: Knoeller, 2003). The article tells us that on coming to her brother to receive comfort, Frances faces confrontation with the option of listening to her brother’s story. It is evident that the brother does not care about what she wants to tell him, so he asks her to give him ten minutes. Those minutes provide enough time to tell her his story, which now confronts her original goal. The obstacles to the goal, therefore, are stories by Frank and the fact that he drove a car into the highway abutment (Maunder, 2013). The two scenarios prevent the sister from achieving her goal, and it ends in listening to the brother’s story for the longest time than he had requested. Another obstacle is the brother’s perception whereby he believes no matter what happens the sister will always listen to him since he knows her very well. It brings out the aspect that Frank takes advantage of his sister’s loyalty and decides to take the opportunity to tell his story and leave out the fact she had come to him for attention.

The story comes out as power struggle since it presents two sets of understanding where on one side is the protagonist being Frances while on the other is the antagonist, Frank. The story tells of the struggle between the two siblings whereby Frances wants her brother to listen to her and comfort her upon disappointment in love. On the other side, Frank prefers telling his weird story and leaving out the fact that her sister came to him for help knowing very well she would not object. Other key members of antagonist group are Mike Boiling, their parents, and Benny. Benny made Mike his biological father to make a tough decision as to whether he should choose his son or the people on the train.

The last section analyzes story as connection and disconnection whereby Frances gets to listen to her brother’s story at one moment, and the other gets bored and wants him to stop. The same keeps on until when Frances decide to confront Frank and tell him that she is not interested in the story. The two connects back again when they end up arguing on the same subject. They end up arguing about the decision by Mike Boiling to save the people on the train and leave his son. Therefore, there is mechanics of connection and disconnection all through the story.

  1. Summary of reviews

The story on the night in question received major reactions relating to its setting and content it possesses. For instance, the story seems to retreat to literary journals. It is a short story, and like other short stories, they usually attribute to different storage and display characteristics but The Night in Question seems to cultivate its way to literary journal. In addition, the content of the story by Tobias Wolff happens to remind of other narratives and short stories. For instance, when one reads about the night in question memories of other books come back since they cultivate the same interest.

The story presents harsh reality of choices people make on ones they love. Looking at major parts involving decision-making, Frank chooses to give his story and not listen to his sister. On the other hand, Mike Boiling has to face the tough choice as to whether he should save his son or save the people aboard the train. It, therefore, remind the reader of the dreary present and the need for everyone to be awake and enjoy every moment of their lives.

The other review seen in the setting of the story is that it somehow lacks ideas and a nice twist since the reader can easily determine how it ends. The atmosphere presents also make the story easily forgettable due to the magnitude of original information being limited. The last review analyzes the nature of the writer, and here Tobias Wolff comes out to be a masterful writer since, in his story, the context presents the essence of hidden miracles that exists in everyday experience and natural unfolding.

  1. Analysis on reproductive techniques

Fiction analysis on the story shows The Night in Question as being made of primary reproductive techniques. However, given the content of the story, there are portions of the story that employs the use of other texts or borrowed writings to facilitate completion of the story (Burroway, 2011). For instance, the writer includes a new story set up in the original story to pose protagonist between Frances and Frank.

The section provides a clear understanding of writing reproductively as expressed by the writer. For instance, at one time the author introduces France as wanting to get her brother’s attention. However, to make the story interesting, the author makes use of reproductive writing by majoring in the story by Frank. The writer presents desire by Frank to consumer ten minutes of Frances time, but he ends up using more due to the bulkiness of his story. At one time, in his story, Frank starts with explaining the setting of Mike Boiling’s family then later story focuses on Frank’s father and their mother.

The writer’s reproductive techniques continue to apply when the writer shifts from Frank’s family and goes back to explain Mike’s lifestyle. The story then moves to the day when Mike took his son out, and the results had to make a tough choice in the process. The last section presents a shift in argument with Frances and Frank about the decision Mike was to make between choosing his son or people on the train.


Burroway, J. (2011). Imaginative writing. Boston: Longman.

Burroway, J. (2014). Imaginative writing. [Place of publication not identified]: Longman.

Knoeller, C. (2003). Imaginative Response: Teaching Literature through Creative Writing. The English Journal, 92(5), 42.

Maunder, A. (2013). A Companion to Sensation Fiction. Women’s Writing, 20(2), 273-276.

Wolff, T. (1997). The night in question. New York: Vintage Books.


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