Study Guide

An Amateur's Guide to the Night

by Mary Robison

An Amateur's Guide to the Night Themes

Themes and Meanings (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The most important event buried among the seeming trivia of Mary Robison’s story and the apparent triviality of its characters’ lives is the young narrator’s graduation from high school. The quest that begins for each person leaving the protection of school is daunting, even for those well prepared. As the title suggests, the narrator is an amateur (a novice) searching the darkness (night) of the future with much less light (knowledge, direction) to guide her than one her age should have. Not even for her daughter’s sake can the childlike mother face this ceremony that represents going forward into the world, for she herself has gone nowhere and is going nowhere. The grandfather—usually a symbol of ancestral knowledge, giving wisdom to his progeny—is hardly more mature than the mother. He is symbolically defined by his loose threads. Neither adult can function as the narrator’s guide. The father-figure is totally absent, both from the configuration of the family and from Lindy’s special occasion—except for his note, which spells out all too clearly the narrator’s plight, “Happy Graduation, Good Luck in Your Future.”

Many people look to the stars as a guide to their lives and future. The narrator looks to the stars, the light, for when they are connected, they form patterns or models. Understanding exactly what one sees is difficult because on a clear night the “stars are too bright . . . swimming in their own illumination”;...

(The entire section is 498 words.)