Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The overriding focus of the story is racial discrimination. Set in the American South toward the end of World War II, it conveys the prejudice the white people have against people of color and its effects on both races. It is also a story about being idealistic or realistic. The men at the bar are scornful and upset when Will brings up the need for a change in the relationship of the races. The bartender sends the African American shoeshine man on an errand so he cannot hear any talk about integration. Avery feels he has made a mistake asking his father why he talks to these men because his mother immediately takes the stance that Will should not bring up such topics and mutters that Will is always supporting black people.

Margaret Broussard would have every right to be concerned about escaped convicts near her home, but it seems clear that it is the color of the man in the tractor shed that most disturbs her. She disagrees with her husband, then withdraws into silence and absence. Avery is caught in the middle. He finds it hard to understand why his father would give food to a man and tell him to escape to another state when the man does not even say thank you. Avery often plays with an African American boy about his age, but he senses forces much larger than himself at work in this tense situation.

After the convict returns the second night, Avery is relieved when Will says he fired the shotgun only to try to scare the man into leaving....

(The entire section is 540 words.)