Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Duncan Pike is an eighteen-year-old man with limited intelligence and thus an outsider to himself and to the small fishing village in which he lives. His agonizing feeling of being an outcast is reinforced by his domineering mother, Hilda, who constantly reminds him, “We keep ourselves to ourselves in this town.” His mother wants him to be alone; she clings to him for several reasons. For one, she is handicapped, like her son. Because she is confined to a wheelchair, she depends on Duncan to help her through each day. She also underestimates her son: She thinks him incapable of performing the simplest task without her instructions. This is also the attitude of the villagers toward Duncan; he can only feel further isolated because of this.
For Duncan, any contact with the villagers is extremely painful. “He dared not wonder what they really thought of him, or how they talked, as he went away. . . .” He has almost come to hate himself and doubt his abilities because he has listened too long to his mother and to the other residents of the village.
An incident at the opening of the story illustrates this well. Each Wednesday, Hilda sends her son to buy fish in the market for their supper. She writes down “not cod” as “she wrote everything down for him, every message, every demand, every list.” Duncan resents this treatment; no matter where he goes, he thinks, he takes his mother with him. He has given up trying to defend or explain...
(The entire section is 889 words.)
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