"And if you, the parent, have ever allowed yourself small helpings of private pride and satisfaction at your child's accomplishments, if you have ever stood beaming at a graduation in the June sunlight, swelling inwardly over the award for religious studies and feeling that in some unexplained but important way your daughter reflects your presence, that she represents you and your codes, both cultural and genetic; if you have ever felt that your beautiful daughter was somehow flowering forth from you, so then, when another area of her endeavors is revealed—addiction, say, to crack cocaine—you will also feel the heavy cowl of complicity settle over your head." —from "Blind Man," in A Perfect Stranger and Other Stories, by Roxana Robinson (Random House)
The meaning of this paragraph-long sentence is simple; anyone could express it in a few words, but Robinson takes what might have been a wad of an idea and stretches it like taffy until its painful snap. In so doing she both establishes an emotional truth that will make every reader, parent or no, nod in recognition and reveals the specific pride, guilt, bitterness, and despair of the character to whom these lines belong. Right away she draws the reader close. Up to this moment in the story and immediately again afterward, "the parent" is that character—Roger, with whom you sympathize but whom you can keep at a comfortable third-person distance. Now, suddenly, "you," the reader, must share his point of view. Skillfully Robinson alternates generalities that could apply to any child—accomplishments, cultural and genetic codes—with the details that apply to this particular daughter: the award for religious studies and the addiction to crack cocaine. She creates a story by making the universal particular, and implicates every reader in that story by making the particular universal.