Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The epigraph to George Garrett’s short-story collection In the Briar Patch (1961), in which “An Evening Performance” is the final story, contains two scriptural passages, the first from Isaiah, and the second from Hebrews:We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves; we look for judgement, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Garrett, a southern writer with a firm Christian understanding of the world, often deals with religious themes in his poetry, novels, and short stories. In “An Evening Performance,” Garrett has combined the values of this Christian vision with the regional setting common to his earlier works to produce a short story with a parabolic quality.

The poster that appears at the beginning of the story heralds a coming wonder and is soon followed by the mysterious appearance of three strange travelers who remain curiously aloof from the townspeople. In appearance, the three are far from average: The man limps; the child with the beautifully pure features, Angel, is radiant in her starched white dress (kept oddly fresh and clean despite a nomadic existence); and the strange-looking woman cannot speak. They are not received kindly by the native residents, who hinder and challenge them in their efforts to mount the performance.

The lame man’s...

(The entire section is 526 words.)