“Breathing Method” is a 1982 mystery drama novella by Stephen King. It was published by Viking Press as a part of the “Different Seasons” collection as a winter tale chapter.
The novella is built in a system story within a story. And the significant part of this composition is that both of tales are intriguing but the basic storyline doesn’t have a logical ending. Without a literary device, the breathing method story told in a novella would be too simple. Both narratives make each other better and more complete, amplifying the pressure for the readers.
The main narrator of the frame story is a Manhattan lawyer invited to the secret men’s club by his boss. At this club, the members come together to play pool or chess games and share cocktails, chatting and stories. From the first visit, the main character gets the feeling that this club has too many mysteries behind the closed doors. The line of breathing method begins when one of the men tells his story at the pre-Christmas club meeting. He narrates about his early medical practice episode. He prepared a young single pregnant lady for a child delivery that was very disapproved by the society. He shared his authentic method of breathing to make the childbirth easier for her. The labor began on an icy winter day and the woman was riding to the hospital in a cab that got into an accident. As the storyteller was near with his nurse he saw a woman’s headless body that was breathing using his method. He understood that she was still living to give birth to her son. Somehow after that the body whispers “Thank you” to the doctor then she died. After that meeting, the narrator of the frame story never went to the club again.
The idea of the mystery club was men sharing stories surrounded by the shadow of something strange, which connected to the club’s history and the building and leaves the reader in tension. The scenes of the meetings and the description of the club’s interior are written vividly and create a feeling of you actually seeing the pictures. The story about the breathing method makes the reader feel concern about the doctor’s and patient’s lives. But the question is why the first narrator’s story is unfinished. Maybe it was the best way to end this novella but seems like it needed to continue for some logical ending. It feels that the plot is going to develop, but it does not. On the other hand, if keeping in mind that this club is also mentioned in another King short story called
“The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands”,
then we understand that he is using this literary device to tell us the stories from different narrators.
Still readers are interested to know more about that club because, besides the tales being told in it, this community is a mystery itself. Anyway, this decision of Stephen King makes the novella even more memorable. It leaves you guessing about the possible ending. So, from this side, it’s a good move for the mystery novella. For this reason, it would not be so intriguing if both of stories just ended.