Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Initially the reader may see “Beyond the Glass Mountain” as Mel’s story because his “problems”—drinking and marriage—preoccupy Mark. Mel’s expression of contempt for Mark at the end of the story is consistent with his stoic resolve to hold on to his marriage, however compromising, and reject advances into his private life, even from a well-intentioned “friend”; it even implies a criticism of Mark’s success. They both know that Mark has “gone up and out in the world,” while Mel “has been marooned behind.” Mel signals his attitude toward Mark’s success when he plucks at his sleeve and asks, “Where did you get that jacket?” Mark feels guilty in responding “Montreal,” and shame when he finds himself justifying a trip there to attend a genetics conference.

The story is more centrally Mark’s, for it presents a man of considerable worldly success facing a personal and private failure. Mark wonders how a man can act honorably when the past leaves him with debts and obligations. He fails to find an answer. Instead, he learns that his perceptions of reality are deceiving, that “friends” wear masks that hide their true feelings, and that communication between adult men is problematic.

Mark becomes angry when Mel draws attention to his worldly success: “Mel [who had everything then] had taught the whole unlicked lot of them something, how to win and how to lose, how to live with people and like them and...

(The entire section is 479 words.)