Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The narrator is an author, a writer of short stories, who cannot work on the day that Stalin dies because of constant interruptions by members of her family and by her associates in the Communist Party. Such impositions on her time are apparently commonplace and are a constant source of tension and depression. The narrator finds it impossible to say no.
However, the frustration goes deeper. The narrator finds it difficult to reconcile her involvement with the communist movement and various other left-wing activities with the independence of judgment and spirit necessary to practice her craft. A party hack, such as Jean, has a special commitment to trivializing the author’s talent, reducing it to the level of the class struggle. With obvious delight, she says condescendingly that intellectuals such as the narrator are under “greater pressure from the forces of capitalist corruption than any other type of party cadre.” Clearly, no middle ground can exist between orthodox communism and a free spirit. There is no possibility of compromise. Jean is in effect saying that one cannot have it both ways, although the narrator apparently believes that it is possible.
On this conflict between independence of mind and the quest for political-social identity is built a pedestrian story. The motives that prompted the narrator to join the Communist Party are not stated directly, but it seems certain that these motives, ostensibly idealistic, have...
(The entire section is 375 words.)
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