Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The theme of this story is seeing, which Vance articulates to his class: “What I am going to try to illustrate is the remarkable power of point of view.” The narrator (who shares author Vance Bourjaily’s first name) controls his class’s perceptions of his characters’ situation. Nevertheless, he carefully assures them that they should realize—if they listen attentively—that he is projecting his own point of view on the story when he tells them what he did not observe. “Imagine Daniel knocking then” or “I think an embrace develops out of this” or “Perhaps she touches him.”

Unlike Vance’s students, the story’s readers not only read his story of the love triangle from his point of view, they also read his rendition of how he tells his story to his class, as well as the story of his interaction with Katie Jay—all from his point of view. Vance asks his class to analyze the point of view of his Amish farmer story; in order to understand its theme the reader must analyze the point of view for its classroom context. The class itself fails to get much beyond what they are given; they either dismiss the possibility of other points of view or trivialize them with stock categories, such as melodrama, romance, or comedy. They are left with Vance’s assertion that only if it were told from the point of view of Daniel’s patriarchal father would it become a tragedy because the infidelity of his son foretold the breakdown of his...

(The entire section is 461 words.)