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Throughout the story Oates uses the names of fashionable stores and boutiques to be found at the typical American shopping mall. There is a good deal of criticism of the potential snobbishness and social inequality in these references. In the final paragraph, for example, Mrs. Dietrich recalls that she has never liked "that bulky L. L. Bean thing" her daughter is wearing. The vagabond woman represents a direct contrast to this comfortable middle- to upper-class world to which Mrs. Dietrich and her daughter belong. Here is a variant on the classical theme Et in Arcadia Ego: right in the middle of life and prosperity, there is wretchedness and death. Despite the difficulties between mother and daughter, their difficulties pale into insignificance when measured against the problems of the vagabond woman.
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